LIVING WITH THE FEAR OF DEBT

DEBT levels in Ballymoney and Moyle show that many people are living with serious financial problems, according to new research published this week.

A shocking picture has emerged of how it feels to be living with spiralling personal debt and with the average household now owing more than £15,000 in loans and people being made redundant every day, the stresses for many are becoming unbearable, according to debt charity Christians Against Poverty.

CAP which has a busy centre serving The Causeway Coast has released figures showing that most people waited for more than a year believing no one could help.

And while their difficulties became more acute, their health, state of mind, relationships and even their ability to feed their children suffered.

“The most tragic figure for us,” said Causeway Coast CAP’s Centre Manager David Kelly, “Is that so many people waited to get help, feeling suicidal, hungry and ill and all the while believing no one could help them.

“The most common reason for waiting literally years to get help is that they thought no one could tackle the situation. The truth is so very different, as our clients will tell you.”

Contrary to public opinion, spiralling debt is caused not by overspending and credit cards but changes in circumstances eg job loss, relationship breakdown, illness or bereavement.

“Isolation and embarrassment compound the problem of debt but we are calling today for people to ring and get specialist help from Christians Against Poverty or one of the other free agencies like Citizens Advice or CCCS. Don’t wait until things get worse.”

According to Mr. Kelly as many as eight families a month from the North Coast are contacting CAP to discuss their financial problems.

Mr. Kelly stresses that the situation fluctuates from month to month and is acutely worse when the credit card bills come in late January (20th Jan is widely known as BLUE MONDAY because thats the date most suicides occur!) from the Christmas period.

“This survey covers the United Kingdom, but Northern Ireland is particularly hard hit,” Mr. Kelly told the Times.

And he warned against doorstep lenders who had targeted people locally urging them to take out loans often at inflated percentage rates.

“In many cases people don’t understand the huge APR/interest rate they’re being charged, the amount of interest they have to pay and in some instances, lenders have even encouraged people to take out more loans to cover the costs of servicing existing debts which they can no longer afford.

“People come to me with information which makes me cross about the way in which some lenders target them. Borrowers don’t seem to be aware of what they are getting into,” he added.

Christians Against Poverty is a charity which partners its financial know-how with the care of the local church and now has 160 centres around the UK.

The Causeway Coast centre opened in February 2010 in partnership with Causeway Coast Vineyard Church, Coleraine.

The help it gives is for everyone regardless of age, gender, faith or background, it helps the very poorest (there is no minimum payment), sees every client in their home and CAP stays in regular contact until the client is debt free.

Find out more about CAP on www.capuk.org or for debt help call 0800 328 0006 (phones open Monday to Friday)

Client Questionnaire 2011

1390 respondents from across the UK

37% considered or attempted suicide as a way out

76% sacrificed meals – 28% of all clients did so regularly

62% of clients with children said debt affected their ability to provide for them, either making them unable to clothe or feed them adequately. 15% were unable to feed them three meals a day and 58% unable to clothe them properly. (these include the 11% who could not do either)

78% said that debt affected their health negatively. 57% of all clients visited a GP as a result of debt and 74% of these people were prescribed medication.

61% waited over a year before they sought help for their debts, with 28% of clients waiting over 3 years. 46% said that this was because they ‘didn’t think anyone could help them’ while 45% said they felt embarrassed and ashamed.