As a report into the nation’s mounting personal money problems is published, the Archbishop of Canterbury has described the scale of debt as at “epidemic levels”.
Justin Welby is the patron of the charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP), which produced the report.
It found that outstanding debt equates to 96% of annual household income for CAP clients.
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Many reported they were too scared to answer the phone or the door before they sought help from the charity for their problems.
Mr Welby said: “In 2017 we saw warnings from many of our financial institutions about consumer borrowing.
“Achieving economic stability together with economic justice for all is too easily overlooked. The scale of problem debt in our country is at epidemic levels.
“Jesus calls us to be hope-bringers and peace-givers. Where there are still lives filled with an oppressive hopelessness, where darkness has a grip, our mission is not done.”
The CAP interviewed 1,000 people to produce its report.
One client told researchers: “I was incapable of repaying the debts I had built up while I was not working so I turned off the heating, stopped eating and was unable to afford essential things like toiletries.”
Others reported that they had considered ending their lives.
Nearly four in 10 respondents were afraid to leave their homes as a result of their debt, six in 10 were afraid to answer the door and three-quarters didn’t want to answer the telephone.
In 2013, the Archbishop said that the Church of England wanted to drive payday lenders out of business through the creation of credit unions.
Kent has a credit union in the form of Maidstone-based organisation Kent Savers. Set up in 2010, it aims to promote saving and offers loans at affordable rates.