Click here to download the full report

Our ‘Financial Inclusion Report: the impact of a cost of living credit crunch’ focuses on the impact of the cost of living crisis, personal and household finances, and the resulting impacts on access to financial services in the UK. The findings emphasise how badly some groups – such as young people and ethnic minorities – have been affected more by the crisis than by the pandemic, thereby contributing to the increase in financial exclusion of those looking for support.

Research conducted by Opinium from over 4,500 respondents shows that 44% of people are struggling to ‘make ends meet’ due to the cost of living crisis, all while affordable credit is becoming increasingly harder to obtain. This report demonstrates that the cost of living crisis is exacerbating pre-existing issues and inequalities, and large sections of the UK population are repeatedly being let down and pushed into further difficulties. The number of people who feel they are being locked out of the financial system is increasing year-on-year – up from 1-in-5 (20%) of those surveyed last year, to more than 1-in-4 (28%) this year.

The report shows that those who do have access to credit are finding it difficult to pay off debt or balances, with nearly 3-in-4 (72%) people having struggled at some point to pay off their loans, up from 1-in-2 (50%) in last year’s report, suggesting that financial stability among British consumers is worsening.

Without intervention, there is strong evidence to suggest that the use of unregulated and illegal forms of lending may start to surge as people seek other routes to access credit and keep up with the cost of living.

This year’s report also finds that there is a lack of trust between the public and financial institutions, with only 1-in-5 (21%) credit-holding adults believing that loan and credit card companies are charging fair rates. Nearly 2-in-5 respondents (39%) agreed that if they could access a genuinely low-interest loan, their financial situation would improve; up from 27% last year.

A collective effort from both industry and the regulator is required to ensure a more equitable and accessible financial landscape for the UK population. An industry commitment to greater transparency around interest rates will be an important step in creating a fairer lending environment. Similarly, the adoption of blind credit applications will promote fairer lending decisions, and provide greater access to affordable loans for those with the means to repay one.

Robert Pasco, CEO and Co-founder Plend, comments: “These findings highlight the mass inequality gaps in our society, exacerbated by the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis. Those who are already struggling to make ends meet are hit the hardest, with many being forced to turn to high-cost credit to meet their basic needs. This only perpetuates a cycle of debt and financial exclusion, trapping people in a vicious cycle they can’t escape from, contributing to the ‘Great Credit Divide’.

We must work together to prioritise financial inclusion and create a society where everyone has access to affordable credit, financial stability, and the opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their families.”

This report was created in collaboration with Nationwide Building Society, StepChange, PFRC Bristol University, Green Finance Institute, Ascension and Fair By Design.
Click here to read the full report.

Our third annual ‘Financial Inclusion Report: a divided nation’ focuses on the cost-of-livings legacy, and how access to financial services has evolved over the last three years. The findings emphasise a divide within our society, and a widening of existing gaps in access to affordable credit – with women and ethnic minorities among the worst affected – thereby contributing to the financial exclusion of those seeking support.

Research conducted by Opinium from over 4,000 respondents shows that nearly half of UK adults consider themselves to be in a financially vulnerable position, and many are struggling to access affordable credit, with 28% of the population feeling locked out of the financial system. At present, 65% of UK adults are struggling to repay their loans and 1 in 10 of us are considering using a loan shark in the next 12 months.
of people feel locked out of the financial system. Rising to 40%for people from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background
of the population felt impacted by the cost-of-living crisis in some way during 2023, down from 94% last year
of UK adults are financially vulnerable, and 34% of vulnerable adults believe that their bank would not be there for them in an emergency
of people struggle to repay their loans, this rises to 72% for women
of people said that their financial situation would improve if they could access a genuinely low interest loan, up from 39% last year
of people who applied for a loan in the last 24 months have been declined – a 2% increase from last year


"Despite news about falling inflation and potential interest rate cuts, the credit market remains fundamentally broken, causing a vicious cycle of high-interest rates and unaffordable repayments from an increasing number of unregulated and illegal providers. It is clear from both the report and our own customer base that there is tremendous demand for a fairer lending system and accessible credit products that don’t currently yet exist.”
The report indicates that all sections of society are still struggling with their finances – borrowing to cope with the cost-of-living crisis is up by 20% – however, the impact of the crisis has been disproportionately severe for certain sections of the population. Women are experiencing a far slower recovery than men, with 72% currently struggling to repay their credit. In addition, those from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to feel locked out of the financial system, with 40% feeling this way in comparison to 27% for those from White backgrounds. In another sign of the disparities that exist, The North West region experienced the highest percentage of loan declines, simultaneously, 73% of the residents here reported being in a worse financial position than they were last year.

The report provides a framework for what we as an industry can do now to ensure we tackle financial exclusion within the UK in a measured and impactful way, alongside support from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Government. 

This report was created in collaboration with Nationwide Building Society, StepChange, PFRC Bristol University, ClearScore, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Big Society Capital and Fair By Design.
“The whole ecosystem, from lenders, government and the regulators need to do better, and start seeing customers as human beings, not just credit scores. Our lending data shows no correlation between loan performance and where someone lives, despite banks and lenders still relying on Office of National Statistics (ONS) data to make credit affordability decisions, which only serves to increase the cost or block people out of certain credit products despite being able to afford them - this has to change as the postcode you live in should not have a bearing on what you can afford.”