Figures produced by Citizens Advice show that inquiries on arrears in the 12 months to the end of September were up from 57,366 the previous year to 77,324 – a rise of 35 per cent.
Requests for advice on credit, store and charge card debts and unsecured personal loans were down by 4 per cent, although this type of debt was still the subject of 35 per cent of debt-related enquiries.
The overall number of requests for advice in 2007/08 fell by about 200,000 to 5.5 million compared with the previous year.
David Harker, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said the increase in enquiries about basic essentials was worrying. "These figures show how the current economic situation is hitting vulnerable and low-income households the hardest," he said.