Citizens Advice Bristol is part of a network of advice agencies and services in the city who have been working together to coordinate our response to the national cost of living crisis.
As we mark DebtChange’s tenth Debt Awareness Week since its launch in 2014, many of those affected by debt will be under increased financial pressure as the national cost of living crisis continues. Energy price hikes, the rising cost of food and stagnant wages are not just creating debt for millions of people in the UK, but making it more difficult for those with existing debt to make repayments. Debt can affect anyone, and it is increasingly important to be aware of the services and support available to help manage debt, as well as the help available for managing food, energy, and benefit entitlements.
While we cannot solve all of the challenges facing many Bristolians, we, together with other advice agencies, mental health workers and community groups are working together to put additional support in place for those who are most affected.
Across the UK, Citizens Advice alone is currently helping more than two people every minute with access to crisis support, like food bank referrals and charitable grants. This year more than 137,000 people have been referred for this type of support – a 50% increase on the same period last year, and a 167% increase on the same period in 2019. We’ve also helped 50,000 people with energy debts, and almost 15,000 people who couldn’t afford to top up their prepayment meter. This is over three times higher than the same period in 2021.
As part of our response, we have trained cost of living advice assistants who are currently working in some of the 100 Welcoming Spaces across the city bringing advice services into community spaces where everyone can access the support they need, in a place that is comfortable and safe.
They can provide help and support around welfare benefits, managing money, debt and discretionary support (food bank vouchers, energy vouchers and grants). They can also refer citizens onto other services or dedicated caseworkers for people with complex situations. Advice assistants are also available for several evening sessions in some Welcoming Spaces, to ensure access to the service for those working in the day who might otherwise be unable to access the same support. Please visit our website to find our current drop-in locations, days and times.
As Project Coordinator for our cost of living project, I have seen many citizens facing debt for the first time this year, many of whom were unaware of the help available to them. It can be just as important to understand the resources available to help avoid incurring debt, as it can be to manage existing debt. This is why we are drawing attention to advice and services that can help you navigate the cost of living crisis, as well as resources for dealing with debt.
If you are worrying about the cost of living crisis you are not alone and there is support out there. The support you can get will depend on your circumstances but you can read helpful information and guidance from Citizens Advice and find out how to contact Citizens Advice Bristol on our website.
For advice on managing debt:
See our comprehensive debt and money webpage for advice on managing debt, as well as bankruptcy, IVAs, debt management plans or debt relief and administration orders. You can also find guidance here on budgeting, mortgage problems, rent arrears, creditors, borrowing, banking, pensions, tax, financial advice and gambling problems.
Other organisations we recommend:
- Use Bristol City Council’s benefits calculator to find out whether you’re eligible for financial help
- WECIL – benefits advice with a focus on those who have a disability or health condition
- Age UK – benefits for anyone aged 55 years or over
- Macmillan – benefits advice for people living with cancer or their loved ones
- Carers UK – for people looking after a friend or family member
The council’s Welfare Rights and Money Advice Service can support with benefits-related issues for a range of eligible clients, services and organisations in Bristol, including vulnerable people on low incomes, Disabled people and full-time carers. Support workers in services commissioned by the council can refer eligible individuals for money and debt advice.
Don’t forget you can also speak to one of our advice assistants in various Welcoming Spaces.
If you need advice on any other cost of living-related issues you can also get in touch with:
Bristol City Council’s cost of living support webpage has plenty of additional guidance and signposting on food, benefits, housing, employment, or mental health and emotional wellbeing. As well as information on the Welcoming Spaces in Bristol.