More than 16 million people have missed payments on key household bills this year and more than two million did so for the first time, according to estimates from a Government-backed body.
The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) released the findings to mark Talk Money Week (November 6-10).
It commissioned a Censuswide survey of more than 3,000 people across the UK in October, which found that three in 10 (30%) have missed at least one payment in 2023. Of those, one in seven (14%) said it is the first year this has happened.
Credit card repayments were the most common type of bill that went unpaid, followed by utilities, council tax and bank overdrafts or loans. Some people, meanwhile, missed rent or mortgage payments.
This Talk Money Week, MaPS is asking people to act now if they are struggling to make payments.
The organisation says if you are about to miss a payment, speak to your creditor because they may be able to offer a better tariff, a more flexible payment arrangement or contact with a charity that can help. They also have a responsibility to treat you fairly by offering affordable options.
For people who have already missed payments, MaPS says they should consider taking free debt advice as soon as possible.
Charlotte Jackson, head of guidance at MaPS, said: ”People are struggling this year and as these results suggest, some household budgets are becoming severely stretched. One in seven people currently wouldn’t take any action if they started to struggle, and this increases their risk of becoming stuck in the trap of long-term problem debt.
“This Talk Money Week, we’re asking people struggling with payments to ‘do one thing’ and act fast. If you think you’ll miss one, speak to your creditor, and if it’s already happened, it’s not too late to consider free debt advice. Acting now will help you get some control over what’s happening, find out your options and avoid the devastation that debt can cause.
“It can be really difficult to take that first step, but it can make a massive difference. If you’re unsure where to start, our free and impartial guide on starting the conversation is available now via our MoneyHelper service.”
MaPS is an “arms-length” body sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions and funded by levies on the financial services industry and pension schemes.