North West affordability fears as bill paying struggle rises over a quarter of residents
New figures reveal that nearly 3 in 10 (29%) North West residents are struggling to pay their bills now compared to a year ago – as people face ‘Blue Monday’.
The worrying statistics have been released as local organisations come together to help people in financial hardship and launch the North West Hardship Hub – the first of its kind in the country.
Commissioned by United Utilities ahead of its annual affordability summit, the independent study, also found that more than a fifth of local residents (21%) are worried about their financial situation, with 27% saying they did not speak to anyone about their most recent experience of financial hardship.
With recent reports showing household debt is pushing millions of families deep into the red, water company United Utilities is once again bringing together organisations from across the region who deal with customers in challenging circumstances to discuss what more can be done to support those struggling financially.
The summit is held on ‘Blue Monday’ (January 21), typically the most depressing calendar date of the year due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills.
Speaking about the initiative, Louise Beardmore, customer services and people director at United Utilities, said: “This can be a particularly challenging time of the year for many families in the North West. While it’s very timely to discuss and raise issues around affordability on Blue Monday, it’s also something that needs ongoing attention. We are therefore launching the North West financial hardship hub, which is the first of its kind in the country, and will be a valuable new resource for the money advice community in our region.”
The Affordability summit is being opened by Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, and will have representatives from across the North West, including debt advice charities, food banks, Credit Unions and Housing Associations.
Louise Beardmore added: “This is the second Affordability event we have organised. From our point of view, if customers are struggling with water bills, they are likely to be struggling to pay most of their household bills. It can be difficult for a single organisation to make a widespread difference and we believe that a collaborative regional partnership can go way beyond what any one organisation could do alone. We are proving this with the launch of the North West Hardship Hub, which has been created following the collective outcome of lasts year’s event.
“Our new research worryingly found that more than one in four people did not speak to anyone about their recent financial hardship, so we want everyone living in the North West to know help is out there. The hub gives the region’s money advice community the tools to help pinpoint the right support for the people who come to them for help.”
The Hardship Hub is simple to use and has been developed in conjunction with experts from the money advice community, including Citizens Advice and housing associations. It has been dubbed a ‘trip advisor’ for financial advice and advisors can use it to search for all the available help in their local area and can also rate schemes and recommend them to colleagues.
Debt advisor Robert Bereton said: “The creation of the North West financial hub will be an amazing one-stop shop tool for advisors to use when looking to find financial schemes and support for people across the North West who have come to them for help. It will inevitably save valuable advisors time and most important of all, mean we can find people in financial difficulty the right package of support a lot faster, which is fantastic.”
There are many organisations such as local Citizens Advice channels available to help people in the North West who are struggling with financial hardship and people are being encouraged to seek support if they need it.
More information on all the financial assistance which United Utilities can provide, can be found on the United Utilities website at unitedutilities.com/difficulty-paying-bill
Take a look at our new affordability pages.
Top ten affordability cut backs (things that people in the north west have cut back on due to financial hardship):
1. Clothes (69%)
2. Going out for meals (68%)
3. Holidays (68%)
4. Going out/socialising (66%)
5. Food shopping (49%)
6. Drinking alcohol (43%)
7. Treats for their children (32%)
8. Gym membership (28%)
9. Paying credit card bills (27%)
10. Paying household bills (23%)
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 6364 adults, of which 686 were from the North West. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th - 31st December 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).