Belfast Telegraph

Debt amongst Northern Ireland's young soars to £0.8m

By Claire McNeilly

Young people in Northern Ireland went into the red by £0.8 million last year - a rise of almost 5%, as debts fell across the rest of the UK.

Alarming new figures issued by a leading charity also indicated that the average debt level here is almost £2,000 more than in other regions.

The Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) said the region is one of the UK's problem debt hotspots.

This trend is particularly worrying in the light of recent statistics that showed almost a fifth of our 18 to 24- year-olds are currently on the dole.

Among the CCCS's statistics was the news that the under-25s who contacted the charity for help last year owed on average £8,272 in unsecured debts. The UK average for people in the same age group was £1,956 less at £6,316.

Their findings also showed that in 2010 the average CCCS client's monthly income here was £55 short of the amount needed to cover basic living expenses, never mind repay debt.

The study is set to ring alarm bells in the current climate where the cost of everyday essentials, such as food, is rising inexorably.

Last month, the number of unemployed people in Northern Ireland soared to over 60,000 for the first time since October 1997.

The unemployment rate is now 7.3%, up from 6.7% in the same period last year. However, among 18 to 24-year-olds the rate is a staggering 17%.

Debbie Mills, Managing Counsellor for CCCS Northern Ireland, said the situation was particularly precarious as the recession deepens.

"These figures are very worrying, and show how serious the debt problem in Northern Ireland is," she said.

"I would urge anyone in Northern Ireland who is struggling to cope with debt to seek free advice from a charity such as CCCS as early as possible."

CCCS data also indicated that across all age groups, average debt levels in Northern Ireland bucked the downward UK trend and rose by 4.9%.

Youth unemployment will be compounded by the number of teenagers who will not get into university this year.

The number applying has reached an all-time high of 669,956 as candidates try to beat next year's rise in fees of up to £9,000 a year.

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