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Coronavirus Debts: Estimating the size of lockdown arrears in Wales

19 November 2020

Coronavirus Debts: Estimating the size of lockdown arrears in Wales [ 1.2 mb]

Household finances in Wales have been hit hard by coronavirus. Many people have lost jobs or seen their incomes reduced, leaving them struggling to keep up with day to day costs. 

We estimate that £73 million in arrears on household bills like rent, energy or council tax has built up in Wales since the outbreak began. 

Over 280,000 people in Wales report they have fallen behind on payments. People whose work has been affected by coronavirus, households with children and people with disabilities are most likely to have fallen behind.

While the crisis has undoubtedly led many to accrue new debts, it has also exacerbated problems for people who were already struggling financially. A third (34%) of people with household bill debts have been unable to afford food or other basic necessities in the period since the outbreak began.

Although many of the mechanisms to directly support people in arrears on household bills are outside of its control, the Welsh Government must take steps to minimise the harm caused by long-term debt

It should:

  • Pause face to face bailiff visits during the Christmas period and any future 'firebreaks'

  • Ensure council tax collection practices don't push people further into debt

  • Work with utility companies to improve their identification of households in need and raise awareness of available support

  • Maintain the funding increase for the Discretionary Assistance Fund into the next financial year