Problem debt at ‘epidemic’ levels - Archbishop Welby

Archbishop Justin Welby
Archbishop Justin Welby

The scale of problem debt is at “epidemic levels”, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

The Most Rev Justin Welby made the comments in the foreword of a report compiled by debt help charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP).

The report said, on average, CAP clients’ outstanding debt equates to 96% of annual household income when they seek help.

Mr Welby, the charity’s patron, said: “In 2017 we have seen warnings from many of our financial institutions about the scale of consumer borrowing.

“Achieving economic stability together with economic justice for all is too easily overlooked.

“Jesus calls us to be hope-bringers and peace-givers. Where there are still lives filled with an oppressive hopelessness, where darkness has a grip, our mission is not done.”

In 2013, the Archbishop voiced concerns about energy price hikes and he also said in that year that the Church of England wanted to drive payday lenders out of business through the creation of credit unions.

The CAP report said that for people in severe financial hardship, a home may not be a place of refuge but rather a place without food in the cupboard, without heating, hot water or working household essentials.

People’s financial problems were rarely just about the debt, CAP said.

Isolation and financial difficulty are often interwoven, meaning that people are unable to afford travel expenses or social events, such as meals with friends.

This, mixed with deteriorating mental health, the pressure felt to repay and visits from enforcement agents, can cause people to become even more cut off.