“Normally speaking social economic topics don’t feature among the top three issues raised. In recent days there’s been a 16% surge in calls about money worries” says Jenifer Pots, the co-ordinator of the federation of Tele-Onthaal services in Flanders.
Callers are also raising issues like debt mediation, budget management, bailiffs and the worry of eviction. People are concerned they can’t give their children what they want. Others fear loneliness as they axe social activities under money pressures. People report insomnia. Some are delaying medical care.
Still the number of calls remains under the levels reached during the pandemic, when there was a 15% surge, but they are still above normal levels.
“People are struggling as a result of yet another crisis: first there was Covid, then the war in Ukraine. Now it’s the financial woes that people are facing”.
Some groups seem more vulnerable than others. 60% of people calling about social economic problems are singles. 8% are members of single parent households. 3% are homeless.
There’s been no rise in the number of young callers. One in four callers is in their fifties, one in three between 60 and 80. Some callers are living below the poverty line, but people from medium-income households are reaching out too.
People are worried about losing their job or are eager to take a second job to replenish savings depleted during the pandemic. Retailers are worried they may go to the wall.
Many callers are also seeking help to secure financial support. The service advises them to contact local social services.