Shocking new figures on the mounting debt crisis facing Northern Ireland households have been made public by the province's leading advice organisation.
They show an increase of almost 40% in people seeking help from a Government-funded debt counselling service.
Citizens Advice, which runs the Dealing with Debt project, has warned that the credit crunch is hitting the most vulnerable in society. It released the latest statistics from the service for the July to September quarter of this year.
The total debt dealt with by advisers during this period was £5.5m, compared to £2.5m in the same three months of 2007.
Mortgage arrears in the Dealing with Debt caseload increased to almost £500,000 from £11,500 in the same period last year.
Catalogue debts, credit card debts and personal loan debts were all up by over 50% and business debts climbed by 790%.
Between July and September this year, 518 people sought assistance from the service. In the same three months in 2007, the total was 385.
Derek Alcorn, Citizens Advice chief executive, said: “The end of cheap available credit is impacting on the most vulnerable in society who have in many cases been forced to use credit to pay for essentials.
“It is essential that the finance industry accepts their part in this credit crisis and gives their commitment to do all they can to help people stay in business and stay in their homes.”