Debt advisors are expecting to see a wave of people struggling to make ends meet come forward after lockdown.

Organisations helping people to manage their debts fear that some people may be scraping by during the pandemic, and anticipate an influx of people in desperate need of advice once financial freezes are scrapped.

When lockdown began, many lenders made it easier for people to defer or freeze their payments, but as measures start to be lifted, many firms have begun the process of withdrawing these helpful aids, which could leave dozens of people clinging to their assets by their fingertips.

In Bolton, the number of people seeking advice from the Money Skills Service, run by Bolton Council, has dropped significantly since lockdown began.

The introduction of interest-free overdrafts, mortgage and debt payment holidays, and the lack of eviction cases being heard in courts have all contributed to this drop, leaving the borough vulnerable to a surge in need when these measures are lifted.

A spokeswoman for the Money Skills Service said: “Overall, since the start of lockdown, our referrals have reduced considerably for a number of reasons, including bailiffs currently not visiting debtor’s properties, and people having other worries and priorities on their minds.

“We are contacting previous customers to see how they are coping and encouraging customers to take action now before the helpful measures end, interest accumulated kicks in and creditors start chasing for arrears and debts again.

“At a Money Advice Meeting last week, information was shared from the Institute of Money Advisors anticipating a 60 per cent increase in demand for debt advice, from November and economists envisage this reaching a peak in 2021.

“If anyone is feeling the pinch or is worried about how they will cope with their finances in the coming months, now is a good time to get in touch with us.”

According to national debt charity StepChange, the first two months of lockdown had a direct negative effect on the income of 28 per cent of adults.

Although the crisis has hit a wide variety of the population, young people, women, parents, and people in insecure work are the most likely to have been impacted.

Research carried out by the charity showed that 2.8 million people have fallen into arrears since the start of lockdown, with utilities, council tax, and rent the most commonly unpaid bills.

Over 4m across the country have resorted to borrowing money, often using credit cards, overdrafts, or high cost credit products.

People have also been forced to use up their savings, ask family and friends for help, apply for Universal Credit, or sell their possessions just to get by.

The group believes 2.7 million people have accessed payment holidays on mortgage and credit products – with 36 per cent of those expecting to fall behind on regular bills before the end of the month.

Rob McManus, a consultant at Wipe Your Debts, a national debt advice firm based in Farnworth, said the firm has seen the number of enquiries each week almost double since lockdown began.

The firm would usually hear from 50 people a week looking for more information on how to manage their debts, but are now taking 90 calls each week, and expect this figure to rise even more.

Mr McManus said: "It's a really difficult time and it's going to hit the economy massively and we want to do what we can to help people and companies get back on their feet.

"Those payment breaks are helping people but that's only going to last so long, they were put in place for three months and when they end we'll be busier.

"There's a lot of people on furlough so they've had that reduction in their wage and that squeeze does have an impact.

"Even just being stuck at home is having an impact on people's mental health, but going through debt puts a lot of strain and stress on that person too.

"Hopefully things are turning, shops have opened so hopefully things will start getting back to normal, but we expect to see more people needing our help first."

Firms like Wipe Your Debts can work with people to find a way to manage debts and avoid insolvency.

Mr McManus can be contacted for advice on 07449 878298, and the Bolton Money Skills service can be approached for help via 01204 332916.