Belfast Telegraph

Percentage of people in debt here well above UK average

By Claire McNeilly

The proportion of people in debt in Northern Ireland is much higher than the UK average, new research has found.

One in five individuals (or 21%) are likely to have missed bill payments, or find themselves struggling with a debt burden.

That compares to a UK average of one in six (or 16%).

It has also emerged that two of the UK's top 10 most indebted local authorities are in Northern Ireland, while all councils here have higher debt levels than the UK average. The research found that both Derry and Strabane (23.8%) and Belfast (22.9%) were among the 10 most over-indebted local authorities in the UK, ranking fifth and seventh respectively.

Debt problems vary locally from Derry and Strabane being the most over-indebted out of 11 council areas to North Down and Ards (18%), which has the least money worries.

Janine Maher, Northern Ireland manager at the Money Advice Service, which conducted the study, said it provides the most up-to-date look at the levels of problem debt across the UK.

"We estimate that 21% of adults in Northern Ireland suffer with financial worries - with renters, younger adults, larger families and single parents noticeably at higher risk," she said.

"We will continue to work with our partners in Northern Ireland to ensure that debt advice is easy to access. We know that debt advice works but in Northern Ireland, only 11% of people with financial difficulties are currently seeking advice."

The study reveals that renting a property indicates that an individual is twice as likely to be over-indebted compared to someone owning their home (25% versus 12%).

Around 16 million people in the UK rent their home with one in four (4.1 million) of them living with debt problems.

For those renting a social housing property this likelihood increases to nearly one in three (29% versus 21% privately renting).

It has also emerged that young adults aged 25-34 are most likely to be living with a debt problem.

Among 25-34-year-olds, one in four live with debt problems (2.1 million) - the highest likelihood of all the age bands.

The research shows that the likelihood of debt problems peaks at this age, and doesn't begin to fall significantly until the 55-64 age band.

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