Over 3,000 in Northern Ireland turned to new help service over spiralling debts of £32m
More than 3,000 people in Northern Ireland with personal debts totalling £32m have contacted a new help service in just eight months.
Credit cards were the biggest concern for those with severe financial problems, closely followed by mortgage shortfall and spiralling personal loan debt.
New figures provided by Debt Action, which operates under the auspices of Advice NI, revealed that 3,200 individuals turned to debt experts between April 1 and November 26 this year.
Moira Doherty, deputy secretary for Engaged Communities, said an escalating mountain of debt can be a mental health burden for those in the red.
"The evidence demonstrates that there is a real need and that the need is increasing," she said.
"It also shows that unmet need can often impact on the quality of life of those affected, particularly in terms of mental health.
"I would encourage anyone who finds themselves struggling with debt or other financial problems to avail of this free and independent service."
Sinead Campbell, Advice NI's head of debt, money and quality, said Debt Action, a new service funded by the Department for Communities, has made a real difference in helping people to cope with their debt situation.
"Our figures show credit card debt is our clients' largest concern," she said. "Our advisers are finding that with rising living costs, people are more and more turning to credit.
"This can be an expensive option in the long term and people find their debts can easily spiral out of control."
Advice NI's trained debt advisers operate across Northern Ireland and provide support to clients who are struggling with money issues.
The advisers are able to provide options for dealing with all kinds of debt and can negotiate on clients' behalf with creditors, allowing them some breathing room while they decide on their best options.
Debt Action is a free service available to anyone living here, which can be accessed via various channels, including a Freephone helpline, email, webchat and text.
It also offers face-to-face appointments with advisers across Northern Ireland.
Advice NI is an umbrella body for the independent advice network in Northern Ireland and has 70 members across Northern Ireland who provide advice on debt, benefits, housing etc.
Advice NI dealt with some 404,594 enquiries in 2018/19.
Those struggling with debt can contact the Debt Action Freephone helpline on 0800 028 1881 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) to speak directly to an adviser.
They can also email advisers at email@example.com or text ACTION to 81025 and an adviser will call back.