Covid-19 has had an impact on many different aspects of our lives. However, one area that many are feeling the impact is on their finances. With furloughed staff no longer able to bring in a wage and those who are self-employed not being able to work as normal; money has been something that many people don’t have enough of.
This lack of money has meant that debts have seen an increase over the past few months and in particular debts that relate to Council Tax payments. In fact, the levels of Council Tax debt is rather worrying, with as many as 1.3 million households in the UK likely to have Council Tax outstanding, largely due to the impact of Covid-19.
A rise of debt could have huge long-term implications for those who may already find managing their finances tricky; or those who are newly finding it a struggle. Knowing this, Citizens Advice, Money Advice Trust and Stepchange asked for the Government to do what they can to ensure that these people are protected and that their chances of ending up in more serious debt is reduced.
Physical bailiff visits have been stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic and also, during this time, those who rent their home have been safe in the knowledge that they cannot be evicted from their homes too.
Is this going to carry on?
Whilst both of these things are helping those who may be having money troubles, new legislation passed at the end of June means that this is not going to stay the same. In fact, at the end of August, (August 23rd) the protection that renters have had is going to come to an end. This means that evictions can begin again and of course, the main reason for these is often due to missed rent payments.
On the very same day, it has also been agreed that physical bailiff visits can begin again. Which, when you consider both parts together, is likely to be a catalyst for a wealth of financial problems, or to cause them to spiral and end up in a variety of other types of debt.
It seems that council tax could be one of the main forms of debt that needs to be collected. Studies have shown that there is over £500million of council tax that is owed to local councils.
What does this mean?
The idea of waiting for a knock on the door from a bailiff is not something that anyone is going to want to have to think about or deal with. Especially when there is seemingly nothing that the particular family or person can do to try and rectify their debt issues.
Of course, debt needs to be repaid, however, there should be as much help put in place as possible to ensure that whilst the repayments are made, that the person who is making the repayments don’t find themselves falling into even more debt.
This should look at options such as realistic affordability and fair treatment to all those who are in debt and perhaps looking at the ways that debt is collected, with an avoidance of bailiffs unless no effort to pay has been made.
No matter which way you think about it, despite the fact that lockdown is starting to lift, this doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods completely yet and the effects of Covid-19 are likely to be felt for some time to come.