OFFICIAL: Millions still struggling financially but position ‘improving’

The Financial Conduct Authority has found that found 7.4 million people were struggling to pay bills and credit repayments in January, down from 10.9 million in January 2023.

A picture of the Financial Conduct Authority logo taken from inside its reception in Stratford, London.

Millions of people across the UK are struggling to pay their bills with renters, single adults with children and adults from a minority ethnic background bearing the brunt, research from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) reveals today.

The regulator found 7.4 million people were struggling to pay bills and credit repayments in January 2024, down from 10.9 million in January 2023 – but still higher than the 5.8 million recorded in February 2020 before the cost-of-living crisis began.


Some 5.5 million people said they had fallen behind or missed paying one or more domestic bills or credit commitments in the previous six months from January 2024 – down from 6.6 million people a year earlier.

In the 12 months to January 2024, 2.7 million adults sought help from a lender, a debt adviser or other financial support charity because they found themselves in financial difficulty.

Nearly half (47%) of those that sought help said they were in a better position as a result. However, two in five adults who had fallen behind on their bills said they had avoided talking to their lender about their finances.

Renters, single adults with children, adults from a minority ethnic background and people living in the north-east of England were more likely to be in financial difficulty.

Sheldon Mills, FCA
Sheldon Mills, FCA

Sheldon Mills, FCA Executive Director of Consumers and Competition, says: “Our research shows many people are still struggling with their bills, though it is encouraging to see some benefitting from the help that’s available.

“If you’re worried about keeping up with payments, reach out to your lender straight away. They have a range of support options and will work with you to agree the best one for you. You can also find free debt advice through MoneyHelper.”

The FCA has reminded financial firms they must support their customers and work with them to manage payment difficulties. The regulator has cracked down where firms haven’t met its expectations, securing nearly £60 million in compensation for 270,000 customers.

We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Jordan Clark, Quilter
Jordan Clark, Quilter

Jordan Clark, Financial Planner at Quilter, says: “Over seven million Britons continue to grapple with bills and repayments. More than five million have missed payments recently, though that’s an improvement from the previous year. And while 2.7 million sought help and nearly half found relief, too many are still hesitant to speak up about their financial woes.

“It’s clear that renters, single parents, minority communities and those in the north-east are disproportionately affected. And despite a three-percentage point uptick in disposable income, one in nine still have none. Women are feeling the pinch more than men, with 30% struggling financially.

“Though we might have past the peak of interest rates, with high energy costs and stubborn inflation, we’re not out of the woods yet.”

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