The number of families struggling to pay bills has more than doubled since the coronavirus outbreak, figures reveal.
Some 4.7% of people – fewer than one in 20 – said they found it difficult or very difficult to afford their household outgoings before the pandemic struck, according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics.
That rose to 10.8%, or almost one in nine, who say they have struggled to pay their bills since the crisis began, in the survey of 1,990 British adults.
That amounts to over 5.6 million people struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.
Some 27.5% of those quizzed admitted they would not be able to afford an unexpected bill of £850.
However, 53.8% still found it easy or very easy to pay their bills during the outbreak, compared with 61.3% before the crisis unfolded.
It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivers Wednesday’s mini-Budget.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who is bidding to become her party’s leader, said: “The number of households struggling to pay the bills has soared since the start of this pandemic.
“The Government needs to step up and provide extra support to hard-pressed families, including by scrapping the heartless two-child cap on benefits.
“At the start of this crisis, the Chancellor said we will be judged by our capacity for compassion.
“Now is the time for him to live up to those words.”
Workers were initially shielded from the worst impacts of the virus through the Government’s Job Retention Scheme.
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs last week that 9.3 million employees had been put on furlough, costing taxpayers £25.5billion as the Government pays 80% of workers’ salaries up to £2,500 a month.
Some 2.6 million self-employed people are being supported, costing £7.7bn.
In September, companies’ contributions will rise to 10%, climbing to 20% in October.
The Government will cover 70% of wages up to £2,190 in September, with employers to pay National Insurance and pension contributions and 10% of wages.
The following month, the Treasury will pick up 60% of wages to a £1,875 limit, with employers paying tax contributions and 20% of wages.
The scheme is due to end completely at the end of October.
Experts fear that once Government support is phased out, firms will begin to make mass redundancies.
The past week has seen thousands of job cuts announced.