Local charity busier than ever with debt advice

Claire Brown News

It’s one of the busiest times of the year for debt advice and historically January 31st is the busiest day of the year for clients seeking help, according to Citizens Advice South Hams.

Analysis of national data from the past 12 months reveals that on the 31st January 2018, Citizens Advice helped 2,800 people face-to-face, on the phone or via webchat.  This means one person sought help from Citizens Advice every 10 seconds.

People accessed debt advice on the national Citizens Advice website 17,000 times on January 31st, 2018, making it the busiest day for online help as well.

Locally, Citizens Advice South Hams has already reported a 30% jump in debt related issues this year.  The local charity provided assistance to people seeking help for a wide variety of concerns, including domestic energy costs and debt incurred whilst claiming Universal Credit.

Janie Moor, CEO of Citizens Advice South Hams, said:  “Debt is an extremely complex issue. For the people we help, January is often a time when they reach a point where they need to get support to deal with their finances. While we advise people with credit card bills, those in debt are far more likely to be behind on essential household bills, such as energy costs and rent.

With these arrears come tough penalties for late and non-payment and uncompromising collection practices, such as bailiffs who regularly break rules, for instance taking tools clients need for work. The knock-on effects for people who are struggling is further stress, anxiety and mental health problems.

As well as address why clients face increasing debt problems, the government must protect clients from rule-breaking bailiffs and set up an independent regulator.”

If you are experiencing problems with debt visit southhamscab.org.uk and type Debt into the search box, or contact Citizens Advice South Hams by calling their Adviceline on 03444 111 444 or drop in to one of their advice sessions, locations and times are listed on their website.

To help people get on top of their debts, Citizens Advice South Hams is sharing its six top tips to help people get their finances in order.

  1. Work out how much you owe – Make a list of who you owe money to and add up how much you need to pay each month. If you don’t have your most recent statements, contact your creditor to find out what you owe.
  2.  Prioritise your debts – Your rent or mortgage, energy and council tax are called priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. These should always be paid first. Separate these and work out how much you owe.
  3. Work out how much you can pay – Create a budget by adding up your essential living costs, such as food and housing, and taking away these from your income. Any money you have spare can be put towards your debts. The Citizens Advice budgeting tool found on the charities website can help.
  4. Paying urgent debts – You might have to contact priority creditors quickly in urgent situations, such as threatened eviction. Tell them you’re seeking debt advice so you can find a way forward. You could try to pay them something, if you can afford to.
  5. Paying non-urgent debts – If you have any money left after paying priority debts, consider getting a free debt-management plan. You’ll make one monthly payment to the plan provider, who will handle paying your creditors. Or contact your creditors and offer them what you can afford to pay.
  6. If you can’t pay your debts – If you’ve got little or no money spare to pay your priority debts seek advice from us straight away.