scores of Leeds families affected by major benefits changes are struggling with rising debts – with almost half who owe money unsure when or even if they will be able to pay it back.
A stark new study has also found an increasing number of households are worried about getting further into debt.
Many hard-pressed people are reducing repayments in an attempt to make ends meet each week.
The findings are revealed in the fifth report from Real Life Reform, a major study by social landlords into the impact of welfare reforms on a snapshot of households from Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association (LYHA) and three other Leeds-based providers which are all members of the Leeds Alliance.
The study revealed that:
l Average household debt is now £3,931 – a 72 per cent increase since the research started in July 2013
l 48 per cent of in-debt households don’t know when or if they will ever be able to repay what they owe
l Weekly debt repayments have reduced to an average of £24.66 but repayment periods have extended
l 71 per cent of households are now worried about getting into more debt – a 14 per cent increase since the last report in July 2014
Lisa Pickard, chief executive of Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association, said: “This latest report highlights some very worrying trends.
“Many households, including those in low-paid employment, are struggling to make ends meet and are borrowing to be able to cope on a week-to-week basis.
“With average debts reaching almost £4,000, and many unsure when or if debts will be repaid, there are real concerns about people’s ability to afford to live in the future.”
The research also found that four in 10 households have nothing left each week after bills have been paid.
Meanwhile, 27 per cent of households are employed but only a fifth are in full-time work.