The number of UNISON members turning to the union’s welfare fund for help has doubled since the Con/Dem alliance came to power in 2010. Unsecured debt is a growing problem and in 2012 the union gave advice and support to members with debts totalling a massive £6m.
Across the UK the vast majority of members contacting the union’s Payplan line were working full-time, more than half (57%) were aged between 30 and 49 and yet struggling to cope with an average unsecured debt load of £10,653.
The Budget last week added to the pressure on public service workers’ family finances with the Chancellor announcing that any pay increases will be capped at 1% until 2015/16 – this is on top of the 3 year pay freeze. Stopping the cuts to jobs and services and lifting the threat of redundancy would stimulate confidence in consumer spending, boosting the economy.
Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said: “Years of frozen pay and rising prices are taking a heavy toll on UNISON members. The stress of struggling under the weight of growing levels of debt has a major impact on the health and well-being of families.
“The help and support that the union provides is a vital safety net and helps to keep members out of the clutches of loan sharks and unscrupulous pay day loan companies. It is very sad to see members in real distress because they have applied for and been given multiple loans from different pay day loan companies.
But the reasons why most members get into difficulty are largely down to this government’s policies.
“Public service workers and those with families have been singled out for harsh treatment in successive budget announcements. Freezing child benefit, changes to welfare and in-work benefits have all made matters worse. This last Budget would have caused exasperation not aspiration in many households across the UK.”
In England the highest number of referrals to the union’s Payplan scheme are from the North West but the highest average debts are found in the South West at £17,483. The South West also suffers from a low average surplus (£177) making it harder to stick to repayment plans.
Nearly 3,500 members sought help from the charity, UNISON’s welfare fund – There for you. The service offers advice and support as well as financial assistance for members and their families. It receives applications from members for help with debt, housing and fuel, as well as the cost of school uniforms.
The charity used to pay for wellbeing breaks for low paid families, but since the coalition took office these have been cancelled to allow the fund to cope with the massive rise in demand for help with basics such as fuel and housing and the rising demand for help with debt.
UNISON (National News Release) – Tel: 0845 355 0845