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2,000 people a day to seek debt help from CAB

More than 2,000 people will get debt help from Citizens Advice Bureaux as they reopen after the Christmas break.

As people seek to get to grips with their finances in the new year, figures from the national charity predict that the first week of January will see over 10,500 people come through its doors for help sorting out debt.

Last January saw a 27 per cent increase in the number of debt problems people came for help with, compared to the December before. Debt problems caused by taking out credit like overdrafts, payday loans and credit cards, rose by higher than the average as bureau helped with 32 per cent more every working day of January 2014 compared to December 2013. The highest increase was catalogue debt which was up 39 per cent, followed by payday loans at 34 per cent.

Bureau also helped with more problems caused by essential bills like energy, rent and council tax. The biggest rise of all was for help with housing costs.

Problems caused by priority debts like council tax or rent arrears can be exacerbated by Christmas as extra expenses put additional pressure on budgets which are already squeezed. Bureaux helped with a higher proportion of debt problems caused by basic bills throughout 2014 as slow wage growth, low pay and short hours and meant that many people struggled to make ends meet.

In January 2014 compared to December 2013, CAB in England and Wales helped with:

  • A 45 per cent rise in problems caused by rent arrears
  • 38 per cent more problems with mortgages and secured loans
  • Council tax debts were 24 per cent higher
  • A 28 per cent rise in fuel debt problems
  • 32 per cent more problems with broadband and telephone debts

During the same period, the number of people getting online help from Citizens Advice’s website rose by a third from 175,000 in December to a quarter of a million in January.

The fallout from debts caused by falling behind on basic bills like rent, council tax or energy bills can have a serious impact. In extreme cases, falling behind on rent can lead to eviction, energy debts can result in your power being cut off and not paying council tax can mean you risk a prison sentence. This January, Citizens Advice is urging anyone who is worried that they are running into debt to seek help as soon as possible.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of national charity Citizens Advice, said:

“Thousands of people have begun the new year battling a debt hangover. During the festive season, dealing with debt is often the last thing on people’s minds. Now that Christmas is over, we’ll help over ten thousand people this week alone as they face up to debt problems and start to bring their finances back under control.

“We’re helping an increasing proportion of people who have run into difficulty because they can’t meet the cost of essentials. Slow wage growth, low pay and short hours mean that many people simply can’t get enough coming in to cover the bills. Problems can get worse if they aren’t tackled early on, so if you are worried that you may not be able to cope then seek help as soon as possible.”

If you need advice on how to sort out a debt problem, Citizens Advice can help. Get online help from adviceguide.org.uk or contact your local bureau.

Top Ten Tips on how to deal with debt

  1. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Dealing with debt problems is easier the smaller they are, so take action before they start to spiral out of control.
  2. Think very carefully before you take out more credit or a loan to cover your debts.
  3. Talk to your creditors and let them know you are having problems.
  4. Don't pay off the person who is shouting the loudest, but pay the most important ones like mortgage or rent; council tax; and gas and electricity. Otherwise you will be in danger of losing your home, having your gas and electricity cut off; or ending up in court and possibly prison.
  5. Don’t ignore court papers.
  6. Get advice on benefits, tax credits and other help you may be entitled to if you are struggling.  A bureau adviser can check if you are missing out on additional income and help you make a claim.
  7. Look carefully at your spending, see if there is anything you are able to cut down on and draw up a realistic budget.
  8. Work out how much you can realistically afford to pay.
  9. Start planning ahead for next Christmas now. Putting aside a little money each week could cover the cost of next Christmas and mean you don’t have to take out loans.
  10. Don’t pay for advice. Citizens Advice gives free, independent and confidential advice. They will help you work out repayments and negotiate with your creditors, and also help you keep out of debt in the future.

Citizens Advice

Notes to editors:

  1. To contact the Citizens Advice news team call the press office on 03000 231 080, or via email atpress.office@citizensadvice.org.uk.
  2. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  3. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  4. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online atadviceguide.org.uk
  5. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  6. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  7. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.
Channel website: https://www.icaew.com

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