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'They are not living extravagant lives': 1 in 3 renters in debt struggling to meet repayments, think-tank says

Tasc has said its report challenged the idea that people get into debt because of a “personal failing”.

Image: Shutterstock/Anetlanda

OVER HALF OF Irish households cannot save income regularly, and this figure rises to 77% for low-income households as they feel the squeeze from the debt burden placed upon them, according to new research from Tasc (Think Tank for Action on Social Change).

The research found that over one in three renters in the private sector, who are in debt, are now overburdened by debt repayment while slightly less (28%) are in arrears with their utility bills.

People renting in the private sector are nearly four times more likely to go without heat due to lack of money than those who own their own homes.

Tasc is also calling on more action at government level to integrate managing debt into its interventions on housing, health and other services.

According to the Tasc report, getting into manageable levels of debt is often seen as a “personal failing or problem… in both policy and practice”. 

“The report challenges this notion and recognise that debt is intimately connected to key structural and political factors outside individual action and behaviour,” Tasc says.

It classifies those “struggling” if they are at the greatest risk of financial difficulty with debt repayments that are a “heavy burden”. 

Tasc says those who are in the private rental sector are “struggling” due to some of the factors listed above

Furthermore, it says a significant number of working households are both “struggling” and “squeezed” – barely getting by – because one in five workers in Ireland with debt are struggling with debt repayment burdens and nearly 50% of all workers are at risk of becoming over-indebted in the future.

Single parents, similarly, are also described as “struggling”. 

Amie Lajoie, senior Tasc researcher, said: ““A large number of people in Ireland are living without financial security. Instead they face high living expenses, no savings and are at risk of being over-burdened with debt.

They don’t have extravagant lifestyles. They are just paying the bills to meet basic needs. If they lose their job, or if they have to deal with an unforeseen issue, they are unable to cope. 
This is a very precarious situation, not just for individuals and families, but for the economy.  We have to change the way we regard dangerous over-indebtedness – to shift it from being an issue of blame or solely personal responsibility to a national policy issue, where government programmes integrate managing debt into actions on housing, health and other services.

The report was compiled using a number of data sources, including money advisors with the national Money Advice and Budgeting Services (Mabs) and a review of quantitative data from the 2017 EU survey on income and living conditions.

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Sean Murray

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