More and more households in the Kirkcaldy area are feeling the pinch hard and struggling to make ends meet according to figures released by a charity this week.
Given the current economic climate, the number of people locally who are finding it increasingly difficult to cover the cost of everyday living is on the up.
In the first six months of this year, Kirkcaldy residents contacting the StepChange Debt Charity’s helpline had just £21 left each month after accounting for their essential living costs.
And during that same period, 203 people from the area contacted the charity about their debt problems, including credit cards, personal loans and other debts.
Frances Walker, from StepChange, said: “A combination of stagnating incomes and spiralling living costs has tipped many households over the edge into unmanageable debt.
“Too often those in financial difficulty wait almost a year before seeking advice and in that time their position has deteriorated.
“It is crucial that anyone who finds themselves in this position should seek advice and support at the earliest opportunity.”
But it’s not only this one charity which has noticed a difference.
Others working with individuals and families locally are also reporting more people seeking help.
And Norma Philpott, chief executive of Citizens Advice and Rights Fife (CARF)explained there appear to be a number of factors that are contributing and making things harder for people.
She told The Press: “People are struggling for a variety of reasons – the effects of benefit changes will be beginning to bite e.g bedroom tax and benefit cap.
“We notice that many of our clients are in work and in low paid jobs, which often include zero hours contracts, as well as low wages.
“People also have to travel to work and the costs are increasing. Again there have been pay freezes and money does not stretch as far as it did.
“We have also seen an alarming increase in clients with payday loans who are seeking help from our Money Advice Unit, as well as people with other debts e.g. rent and mortgage arrears.”
And a similar situation has been noticed by Pat Hanson, centre mangaer for Burntisland-based charity, Christians Against Poverty (CAP).
She said: “It is very noticeable that people are struggling more and more to make ends meet.
“There are a lot of people in low paid part time jobs, who want to work, but if they’re single they need to work 30 hours to qualify for working tax credit.
“ A lot of employers now just employ part time workers, so it’s really hard for people to get enough hours to make a living.
“We find a lot of people who do find full time work may not get paid for the first month, and end up taking out a pay day loan just to be able to feed their families.
“A lot of my clients are being hit by the bedroom tax. They just don’t have enough money coming in to pay this extra money.
“Benefit sanctions and gaps in benefit when making a new claim mean that folks don’t have food and they borrow to just get by.”
Pat explained that the charity can help people to budget their money through a CAP money course, which run in Kirkcaldy and Leven, or there’s the offer of one to one debt couselling with ongoing support.
She added: “If you’ve taken out loans as a stop gap measure and find yourself struggling, then please get in touch. We’re here to help.”
Reverend Marc Prowe, minister at Linktown Church and Auchtertool Kirk, said: “I have talked with a number of people who just find it very very hard to make ends meet.
“For example if a person is very intent to pay off rent arrears and is supported by the Citizens Advice Bureau it clearly looks to me that that person is doing everything correct to better that situation.
“Yet, despite calculating advice from Citizens Advice and Rights Fife only 95p per month is left dispensable - that is nothing to counter emergency repairs or replacements or journeys. Everyone needs some financial leeway to get through the ups and downs of life, but where can people gain more income in the current situation?”
But a key message being given out to those who may find themselves in financial difficulties or those who know others in such a position is that help is at hand.
Norma added: “We encourage people to seek information and advice early where possible but recognise that people will often be worried or anxious which may mean they do not feel able to seek help to begin with. Our message would be contact us as soon as you can or if you know someone who is experiencing difficulty encourage them to contact us.”
Who can help?
With more and more financial constraints being placed upon people, there are many organisations locally that can help with money worries. Among them are the Citizens Advice and Rights Fife (CARF) team who can be contacted on 0845 1400 095 for general advice or on 0845 1400 094 for money advice. The numbers are changing in September and the ‘8’ will be replaced with a ‘3’. CARF provide a free, independent, confidential and impartial service.
Information can also be found online at www.carfweb.org or by contacting one of the organisation’s offices across Fife, including Kirkcaldy. Christians Against Poverty is a national debt counselling charity, which has a presence in Burntisland, and offers a free face-to-face, comprehensive solution to those struggling under the burden of debt.
For more information about the charity and the type of support it can provide to those struggling to make ends meet visit https://capuk.org