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Churches are responding to personal debt crisis

I WOULD like to respond to the articles on personal debt (News, May 31) and focus on how some local churches are responding to the crisis.

In the last 18 months, seven different churches in Northern Ireland (three in Belfast alone) have gone through specialised training to open debt counselling centres as part of their service to the community.

Faced with the statistics that a third of people coping with debt consider suicide, 67% are missing meals in order to make repayments, and more than half are suffering marriage problems, the faithful in Northern Ireland are rising to the challenge.

This movement is a partnership with national charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) which is equipping churches right across the UK to tackle, arguably, society's most pressing problem of our time. In practical terms, the centre manager from each church visits the client in their own home, sets them a budget, and opens them an account from which their priority bills get paid and their debtors are dealt with directly from CAP's Bradford HQ.

The service is free and available to everyone regardless of faith or background. Referrals come from housing associations or doctors who are seeing increasing numbers of patients suffering from extreme anxiety.

Most of the Northern Ireland centres are busy with appointments booked up until August, such is the scale of the issue.

I would urge anyone in financial difficulty in the area to contact CAP on our freephone 0800 328 0006.

CHRIS CUPPLES

Christians Against Poverty, Belfast

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