Christians Against Poverty’s (CAP) Burntisland and Kirkcaldy Debt Centre has been offering free debt-help, along with emotional and practical support, to those in the local area over the past decade.
But now, with energy and fuel costs continuing to rise as well as the cost of food in the supermarkets, with some being forced to choose between heating their home or eating, the support is more important than ever for many.
Pamela Henderson, manager at the debt centre based in Burntisland Parish Church, said: “We know that everyone’s feeling the impact of the cost of living crisis right now, but if you’re already on a low income the strain is relentless – plus there’s the added anxiety over future rises in living costs."
A new report produced by CAP exposes the growing impact that the cost of living crisis is having on low income households trapping them into debt.
The figures in the To The Edge report show that new clients in Scotland have, on average, a peak debt of £17,391, a third of which was owed to priority creditors including council tax, energy, rent and mortgage arrears.
Without free debt help, at that level, on average it would take a staggering 50 years for a Scottish household to repay its debts.
The average number of debts owed by CAP clients in Scotland is ten.
At £13,164 (after housing costs), new clients in Scotland in 2021 had the lowest average annual income of all four UK nations, and the highest percentage of new clients whose sole source of income was from social security at 46 per cent.
Pamela continued: “This report shows the reality of the situation for many people.
“The cost of living crisis is leaving many families on unsustainable budgets, with little or nothing left over after covering their basic living costs.
"People are aware that they could suddenly be plunged into large amounts of debt, and they’re scared.
"People fall into debt for a variety of reasons.
"They may have been made redundant, left a job to care for a family member, suffered from a long term illness themselves, or experienced a relationship breakdown which cuts many household’s income in half.
“The detrimental impact that these kinds of debts have are significant.
"CAP’s report shows that, unsurprisingly, more people are suffering from depression compared to last year, and more are also experiencing anxiety or panic attacks.
"Most concerningly, the percentage of our clients who tell us they’ve attempted or considered suicide, as a way out of their debt, has risen as well from last year from 28 per cent to 36 per cent.
"This is heartbreaking and doesn’t have to be the case – help is available.”
Anyone needing help to break free from debit can contact CAP on freephone 0800 328 0006 or visit www.capscotland.org