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3.2 million people in the UK borrowed money to pay for food in 2020

In March 2021 the Money Advice Trust published a new report, setting out the impact Covid-19 has had on people’s personal finances.

The report finds that a third of adults in Britain (31%) report being financially worse off as a direct result of the pandemic- rising to 58% for those who are unemployed. Almost 5.5 million adults in Great Britain, or 11% of the population, are behind with one or more household bill or personal credit commitment due to Covid-19 impacts.

More financial difficulties have led to increased borrowing for many households. In 2020 nearly 9 million people had to borrow more money than usual, 12% of adults in Great Britain (equating to more than 6.2 million people) have had to use credit to pay for essential household bills or goods since the pandemic began. Amongst those who have had to use credit for essentials, the most common use was to pay for groceries (6%) - equating to more than 3.2 million people.

This increase in financial difficulties is shown to be a source of huge distress, taking a big toll on individual’s mental health. The report states that 17% of adults have been losing sleep because of financial worries due to Covid, rising to 43% for those who are unemployed. A further 20% of adults in Britain, equivalent to around 10.2 million people, worried their finances will not recover from the impact of Covid. 25% of adults said these financial worries had negatively impacted their mental health. The report sets out various recommendations to help tackle the financial crisis that so many are facing, urging the Government to take fair and affordable approach to collecting debts owed to government post-Covid. It suggests that:

  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government should ensure that people with council tax arrears are treated fairly.

  • The HM Treasury should continue its work to bring forward the new Statutory Debt Repayment Plan scheme.

  • The Government should help renters who have fallen into arrears due to the pandemic, by providing no-interest loans and grants to clear arrears.

  • The Government should create a dedicated Covid-19 Self-employment Recovery Strategy.

  • Extend the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit beyond September if, as is likely to be the case, the continued economic impact demands it.


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