Energy prices rise ‘tip of the iceberg’ as Shrewsbury money expert struggles to balance client books

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Heather Keates of Community Money Advice

Heather Keates, from the Community Money Advice charity in Shrewsbury, said for the first time in 25 years in the industry she is finding clients she cannot balance.

And she fears for middle-to-low-income Salopians who could “let themselves down”, as well as worries about illegal loan sharks taking advantage of the vulnerable.

“We’re seeing more people asking for help and we’re seeing more people coming to us with more complex issues,” Heather said.

“We have a lot of people whose mental wellbeing has been hit very hard by the direct Covid leak and the lockdown, and who now have to try to make ends meet. It’s quite complicated. Our concern is that we’re starting barely seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

She added: “When prices go up at the end of the week it will have a huge impact on people. Interest rates will affect people with mortgages. Getting to and from work unfortunately becomes more expensive. I think we’re just starting to see what the impact will look like.

“We are really concerned about middle to low income people. Many of them have been on the verge of making it through. Although during Covid they may have saved some money, now we will see these people fall off the edge.

“We know that people have started turning to loan sharks. Because providers like Wonga have gone out of business, some people have turned to illegal money lenders, which is quite concerning.

“For me personally, I’ve been giving financial advice for 25 years. But it’s really only been in the last two years that people have come to me and there’s nothing I can do to make their income more than their expenses. We just can’t balance their budget.

“It’s very easy to blame the government and say they should pick up the pieces. If you look at the big energy companies, is it really necessary to raise prices? .”

However, Heather insisted there are things people can do to save money and urged those struggling to speak to someone to get their finances in order.

“There are ways to save money,” she said. “Things like making sure you turn off all night, don’t charge your phone when it’s already fully charged. Take a look at the subscription services you signed up for and make sure you’re only paying those you actually use and need.Are people getting the benefits they are entitled to?It is always worth considering your entitlements to benefits.

“We are all going to have to tighten our belts. It is very easy to hit a bump and get into trouble. But there is always free help available and it is always worth talking to someone if you’re in trouble.”

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