North East families struggle to pay bills following festive spending

Report from Shelter shows one in 11 people may not be able to pay the rent or mortgage this month

SMEs in the North East fear the economy will take years to recover
North East families struggle to pay bills following festive spending

One in 11 people in the North East fear they won’t be able to pay the rent or mortgage at the end of this month, according to new research from charity Shelter.

The study, based on a YouGov survey of more than 4,000 adults, suggests that millions of people across the country will be starting the New Year worried about whether they will be able to keep their home.

Shelter is warning that the ‘ostrich effect’ created as a result of feeling overwhelmed by money worries could put homes in the North East at risk this year if overdue rent or mortgage bills are put off until it’s too late.

Cheryl Wright, of Ashington, Northumberland, is among those finding it difficult to make ends meet.

The 36-year-old was working as a teacher in temporary employment over four years.

This resulted in an unpredictable income and she found it hard to keep up with bills and mortgage payments.

She said: “I was in a very stressful situation. I was in a cycle of being able to pay bills when I had work and struggling at other times.

“There were also constant re-assessments when I applied for benefits during the times I was not working. You have to keep everyone up-to-date with your current circumstances and it was difficult to tell what money you were going to get.

“Knowing I couldn’t pay the bills affected everything in everyday life. It’s like throwing a stone across a pond, it ripples and affects everything around it.

“I am now looking to get myself out of this situation and am receiving help from Shelter. They have been wonderful. They can unpick very complex things, advise you on what you can and can’t do and point you in the right direction.

“It’s very reassuring because you are being helped by independent people, who are not emotionally attached to you.”

The findings also revealed a trend of people across the region unable to face up to their financial difficulties, with nearly one in four saying they’ve not opened post if they thought it was a bill or late payment reminder. Nearly one in five admitted to putting it in the bin without opening it.

Cheryl added: “I would urge anyone struggling financially to get help. Don’t bury your head in the sand. I know it can be scary but there is help out there.”

Around 38% of people are expecting to struggle or fall behind with their rent or mortgage this year.

Shelter says a combination of high housing costs, wage freezes, and rising food and energy bills has created cash problems in households.

Liz Clare, a helpline adviser, added: “We’re now seeing a stream of cases of families who’ve been unable to cope with mounting rent or mortgage bills and feel at breaking point.

“We all know how difficult it can be to face up to financial problems and we often hear from people who’ve been avoiding urgent post, but the reality is that not confronting it means things can spiral out of control.

“One caller to the helpline arrived home to her rented flat to find the locks had been changed. She hadn’t realised that a court hearing had even taken place because she hadn’t felt able to open her post after falling into arrears with her rent.”

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said: “It’s a worrying sign of the times that so many of us are starting the New Year worried about how to pay the rent or mortgage.

“Unless they get help, some of the families struggling now could face the very real prospect of losing their home this year.”

For details, visit www.shelter.org.uk/advice

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