Belfast Telegraph

Campaign warns consumers over debt

Consumers have been warned to get advice on handling debt before the financial pressure of Christmas hits families.

The warning came in a new campaign by the advice4debt NI service which said it had identified more than £17 million of personal debt in its first year of operation.

The free, independent and confidential helpline, funded by the Department of Enterprise, offers support to anyone with worries about debt.

But spokeswoman for the group Sinead Murphy said those with debt worries need not despair.

Ms Murphy said: "While it is true that Northern Ireland saw the biggest jump in the number of personal insolvencies in the whole of the UK this year, this still represents a small percentage of people. Of the £17 million worth of personal debt we've identified with our callers this year, our team of specialist debt advisers have helped hundreds of callers to manage that debt.

"In the last 12 months, we've helped those using our service to reschedule over £11 million of that £17 million debt, providing people with the chance to get their finances back under control and in some cases to keep their homes. The last 12 months has been tough financially for a lot of people."

Ms Murphy said problems with debt can creep up on anyone but that the burden can be overcome.

An evaluation of advice4debt NI's services by independent auditors KPMG found redundancy and the ease of obtaining credit in the past were major factors in the debt problems facing callers to the helpline.

Common debt problems experienced by those calling the helpline include credit card debt, personal loans and problems with mortgages, including arrears and mortgage shortfall. Advice4debt NI has helped those using its service to negotiate reduced payments with creditors and to develop budgets to keep debt under control.

The advice4debt NI helpline is 0800 917 4607 and lines are open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. Advice and information on managing debt and budgeting is also available on the helpline's website www.advice4debtni.com.

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