One in five people now borrowing to pay for food and other essential bills, with half doing so for the first time

by | Jan 15, 2023

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Over 12 million people are now borrowing money for food or essential bills and half of them are doing so for the first time in their lives, new research suggests.

The survey of 2,180 UK adults, carried out by the Money and Pensions Service, shows that 23% have relied on credit or money from family and friends to buy food in the last three months. The same number (23%) have done so for electricity and gas.

Around half of them (43% for food, 53% for utilities) said they’d never had to do this before.

Similar numbers said they’re relying on borrowing to meet the cost of their rent or mortgage (17%, 52% for the first time), healthcare costs like prescriptions and dental treatment (17%, 51%) and paying off other forms of credit (21%, 41%).


The poll also reveals that one in five people (21%) think they will need credit to get through the next three months, with 4% of them saying they definitely would.

Among the remainder, 7% said it was “very likely” and 10% felt it was “quite likely”.

An additional 15% of respondents couldn’t rule it out, meaning up to 36% of UK adults could soon be relying on credit to make ends meet.


The results come as the Money and Pensions Service launches a new campaign to reach people who are struggling with cost-of-living pressures, which will run alongside the Government’s Help for Households.

The ‘MoneyHelper Cost of Living Campaign’, which begins today and will include billboards and social media content, aims to raise awareness of the help and guidance available and enable people to make more informed financial decisions. 

It focuses on MaPS’ MoneyHelper service, which provides free money guidance from an expert in a range of different formats, such as webchat, WhatsApp, telephone and a web form. 


MoneyHelper also offers free resources on a range of money topics, along with useful tools to assist with vital tasks like prioritising bills, talking to your creditors and planning your budget. In addition, it provides links to further help, including organisations that provide free debt advice.

Caroline Siarkiewicz, Chief Executive of the Money and Pensions Service, said:

“Relying on credit or the generosity of family and friends to put food on the table, heat your home and keep a roof over your head can be a constant source of stress. For millions of UK households, it’s also a daily reality. 


“The MoneyHelper Cost of Living Campaign aims to reach everyone who’s worrying about money, so we can show them that free, independent help is available whenever they need it.

“If you’re already struggling, or you’re worried things are heading that way, it can feel like there’s no way forward. However, the first step to solving money problems is knowing where to turn. 

“You can turn to us, free, in confidence and at any time, so I’d urge you to contact us for money guidance as soon as you think you need it.”


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