We know it’s important to look after our physical and mental health. But did you ever stop to think that looking after your finances and ensuring they’re in the best possible shape also plays a bit part in supporting your overall wellbeing?

The UK average debt saw a significant rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the global outbreak, 14.5 million people were living in poverty. By the end of 2020, another 700,000 people had been plunged into debt due to the virus, taking the total number of people living in poverty to well over 15 million.

Did you know that, 39% of adults living in the UK (20.3 million) don’t feel confident managing their money? 11.5 million have less than £100 in savings and nearly nine million of us are in serious debt, while only around a third receive help.

Are you worried about your money? Or are you behind on bills? Have you had to cut back on spending and are still concerned about making ends meet?

Finding yourself in debt as a result of unforeseen circumstances can be frightening and confusing, whether that is because of loss of income due to ill health, redundancy or having your hours reduced. It can be hard to work out how to manage with less money and which bills must be paid.

The first and most important thing to remember when managing debts is that you have to maintain payments on priority debts.

What are priority bills?

Well, the easiest way to understand this is to think of the bills that have the greater the consequence of not paying them. For example, if you don’t pay your rent or mortgage, you could lose your home.

Other types of priority bills include council tax, child maintenance arrangements, court fines (including County Court judgements), tax or national insurance, TV licenses and household utilities such as gas, electric or water.

You may always pay your priority bills on time and in full, before your other debts. Once you’ve paid priority bills you can then look at other debts.

I’m struggling to pay priority debts

Like we said, as many as 15 million UK adults have had issues with priority bills this year. So, if you’re one of them fear not, you have options. Here are some steps you may be able to take:

  • Speak to your mortgage provider to see if they could offer you a lower repayment rate. You may also be able to switch to an interest-only mortgage for a short period of time, or you may even be eligible for a short-term mortgage break (the Government have recently announced an extension to the Mortgage Support Scheme until December).
  • Shop around for cheaper utility costs, or speak to your existing provider. Many suppliers are offering support with paying bills, so give them a ring.
  • Take a proper look at your monthly budget to really understand what your spending habits look like. Cut back on non-essential spending. You may wish to consider taking this budget to a recognised debt advise charity or use a debt advice tool to help you understand where you could make savings.
  • Contact your creditors to explain the situation and see if you can arrange a debt payment plan.
  • Visit the Government’s website for information on the various schemes that are available to help, whether you are in paid or self-employed work, have been made redundant, are on furlough or are currently unemployed.
I’d like help managing my money

Worrying about your finances can have a devastating impact on your health and wellbeing and on those that live with you. Seeking support to help with your finances has never been more important than it is now and could be the best step you could take for your own self-care.

If you are worrying about debt or are struggling to manage your money, there are several debt advice charities that may be able to help with finding a solution to meet your needs. They can help with many aspects of financial advice including any of the following:

  • Money advice / help with budgeting
  • Debt advice
  • Debt management plan (DMP)
  • Individual voluntary arrangement (IVA)
  • Debt relief orders (DRO)
  • Bankruptcy Advice
  • Financial consolidation
  • Mortgage Advise
  • Equity Release
What can the Charity do to support me?

The Fire Fighters Charity exists to help the UK’s fire services community as they navigate unforeseen circumstances or emergency situations. This includes if you are in debt or worried about your finances. Here are just some of the ways our Welfare Caseworkers could help you:

  • Advice and signposting information
  • Onward referral to help with debt management
  • Hardship payments (but cannot pay debt)
  • Maximising income through Welfare benefits advice

To find out how we can support you call services information line on 0800 369 8820 or make an enquiry online to speak to a member of the Welfare team.

What other organisations are there?

Need a rest and recharge?

Here at The Fire Fighters Charity, we are developing our services to ensure we can offer anyone who may need some time out from the challenges of day-to-day life – no matter their age or stage in life – a break away and a chance to rest and recharge.

Find out more

First published: November 2020

Updated: November 2022