One in three people have missed payments on vital bills already this year

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More than 16 million people have missed payments on key household bills this year and over two million did so for the first time, according to new research for Talk Money Week 2023.

  • Millions miss payments on key household expenses, some for the first time.
  • Credit cards and utilities are the most common bills going unpaid.
  • Only two thirds of people would speak to their creditor, while one in seven would decide to do nothing.
  • As part of its 2023 Talk Money Week, MaPS says acting now can help people avoid “the trap of long-term problem debt.”

A survey of 3,016 UK adults, commissioned by the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), shows that a third of people (30%) have missed at least one payment in 2023. Of those, 14% said it was the first year this had ever happened.

The data is being released to mark this year’s Talk Money Week (November 6-10), run by MaPS, which is aiming to inspire people to “do one thing” that improves their financial wellbeing.

It reveals that credit card repayments were the most common type that went unpaid (11%), followed by utilities (10%), Council Tax or rates (10%) and bank overdrafts or loans (8%). One in 20 had missed a rent (5%) or mortgage payment (4%).

Among those who’d missed one before 2023, utilities (28%) and credit card repayments (27%) were again the most common. Council Tax or rates (25%), bank overdraft or loans (23%), rent and mortgage payments (both 14%) were not far behind.

This Talk Money Week, MaPS is asking people to “act now” if they’re struggling to make payments.

Specifically, the organisation says if you’re about to miss one, speak to your creditor because they may be able to offer a better tariff, a more flexible payment arrangement or contact with a charity who can help. They also have a responsibility to treat you fairly by offering affordable options.

However, the figures also show less than two thirds of people (62%) would actually talk to their creditor and in fact, one in seven people (15%) would do nothing if they were heading for trouble.

Asked why they wouldn’t let their creditor know, a fifth (20%) said they’d feel too embarrassed or ashamed. Feeling they’d be judged (17%), having to disclose something they weren’t willing to (15%) and not knowing creditors can help (15%) were the other main reasons.

For people who’ve already missed payments, MaPS says they should consider taking free debt advice as soon as possible. However, just a third of people (37%) said they would speak to an organisation offering free help or debt advice if they thought they were going to miss a payment.

Most preferred to cut back on essentials (66%), while others would speak to family and friends (40%). One in four (23%) said they’d take out more credit to meet the cost.

Charlotte Jackson, Head of Guidance at the Money and Pensions Service, said:

“People are struggling this year and as these results suggest, some household budgets are becoming severely stretched. One in seven people currently wouldn’t take any action if they started to struggle and this increases their risk of becoming stuck in the trap of long-term problem debt.

“This Talk Money Week, we’re asking people struggling with payments to “do one thing” and act fast. If you think you’ll miss one, speak to your creditor and if it’s already happened, it’s not too late to consider free debt advice. Acting now will help you get some control over what’s happening, find out your options and avoid the devastation that debt can cause. 

“It can be really difficult to take that first step, but it can make a massive difference. If you're unsure where to start, our free and impartial guide on starting the conversation is available now via our MoneyHelper service.”

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Notes to editors

  • This survey was conducted among 3,016 people in the UK aged 18+ in October 2023. It is nationally representative.
  • According to the ONSOpens in a new window, there are approximately 53.2 million people aged 18 or over in the UK.

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