Debt and Financial Capability in North Tyneside
More and more North Tyneside residents are coming to us for help with debts or with managing their money.
In the 2018-2019 financial year, North Tyneside Citizens Advice have helped 4,253 clients with 36,911 issues relating to Debt and Financial Capability, a 39% increase over 2017-2018 (3,052 clients, 25,282 issues).
This coincides with the rollout of the Universal Credit full service across the borough in May 2018. New research from Citizens Advice shows the particular problems people are having managing their money while claiming Universal Credit:
• The wait for an initial payment leaves half of the people we help unable to keep up with their bills or rent, or having to go without other essentials.
• 7 in 10 (70%) of the people we see on Universal Credit who take out advances are also getting into arrears on their bills or rent.
• Debt problems are more common for the people we help with Universal Credit than those claiming the benefits it replaces, with 24% of people we helped also seeking debt advice.
Many of our Debt clients also come to see us about other related issues – 30% of the people we saw about Debt also needed Legal advice, 14% needed Housing advice, and 9% were having difficulty with their utility supplies.
However, the largest related issue for Debt clients is still problems with their Benefits, especially Universal Credit.
In one case seen by Citizens Advice North Tyneside, a single man with mental health issues and alcohol dependency had his Universal Credit payments affected by his final payment from work and reduced by deductions for an advance payment and for older benefit overpayments.
This left him unable to pay essential bills such as his rent and council tax, at a time when he had only recently come out of hospital and was arranging a recovery plan with his GP.
We were able to intervene to both reduce the deductions from his benefit and set up affordable repayment plans on his arrears, as well as helping him get support with his Council Tax, allowing him to focus on his mental health recovery without having to worry about managing his finances.