The number of homes defaulting on payments of essential bills have soared by a million in a month – fuelling concerns another interest rise by the Bank of England is about to plunge more people into poverty.
Those struggling to afford important outgoings such as rent, their mortgage, bills or council tax payments are now at levels not seen since last winter during the peak of the energy crisis.
But with interest rates poised to rise again on Thursday, charities are concerned at the already high numbers of people unable to meet their bills even in warmer weather when costs are naturally lower.
Which?’s monthly consumer insight tracker is behind the findings, confirming 2.4 million skipped crucial outgoings – in the month to July 13th.
In June the figure stood at closer to 1.3million.
This is significantly higher, say researchers, than the number who missed payments in May and in line with the high numbers struggling last winter despite the fact that the UK is yet to reach its coldest months.
Worryingly says Which? two-thirds of those who missed a household bill payment admitted to being unable to pay more than one.
Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, said: “Our research has found that the number of households missing essential payments has risen to 2.4 million – in line with the high levels seen last winter – showing that though inflation might have peaked, the human cost of the cost of living crisis continues to rise.
“With interest rates predicted to rise again tomorrow, these pressures on household finances are only set to increase. We’d encourage anyone who’s struggling to seek free debt advice and reach out to their bill providers for help.”
With difficult months for people ahead Which? says businesses must be doing all they can to ease pressures on household budgets.
This includes, it says, supermarkets making sure budget line items are widely available in all stores including convenience shops while energy firms should have customer service departments fully staffed to support those who need to speak to someone about making ends meet.
Telecoms firms, it adds, need to properly advertise their social tariffs to eligible customers to ensure those entitled to cheaper payments or discounts know to claim them.
This week’s expected interest rise would be the 14th consecutive increase – as efforts continue to bring down inflation.
But the impact on those struggling is rippling explains Thomas Lawson, CEO at financial security charity Turn2us.
He said: “Rising interest rates will bring yet more financial insecurity to much of society.
“Turmoil in the mortgage market is pulling thousands of mortgage holders into poverty. This indirectly impacts renters, as buy-to-let landlords drive up rents to cover costs or sell their properties and leave tenants to face an unaffordable and insecure rental market.
“With more and more of us living precariously using credit cards and loans to pay for the basics, high interest rates make day-to-day life unaffordable for increasing numbers.
“Within a relentless cost of living crisis this has become a perfect storm that's pushing people contacting our helpline to the brink. All the while, an inadequate safety net fails to provide enough to cover even life's essentials.”