Mounting avalanche of debt problems in Ipswich sparks desperate plea for increased money advice

Citizens Advice in Ipswich is applying for £30,000 to fund the equivalent one full-time debt advisor

Citizens Advice in Ipswich is applying for £30,000 to fund the equivalent one full-time debt advisor. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: ARCHANT

An avalanche of people facing financial ruin as a result of Covid-19 has prompted Citizens Advice Ipswich to make a desperate £30,000 funding plea to recruit the equivalent of a new full-time debt advisor.

Nelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager at Citizens Advice Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANT

Nelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager at Citizens Advice Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Lucy Taylor

The coronavirus crisis has already brought many people to the brink of disaster, with unemployment benefit claims soaring by 3,000 between March and July this year - nearly double previous levels.

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said the 6,280 people - 1,205 of them young people – claiming unemployment benefits by the end of July was the “largest it has ever been”.

MORE: ‘Very worrying time’ - unemployment in Ipswich nearly DOUBLES amid swathe of job cuts

Yet there are fears the problems will get worse, with charities braced for a rise in homelessness when restrictions on bailiff evictions end this month and the furlough scheme finishes in October.

As such, Ipswich Citizens Advice says: “We are worried that this burden of debt will hamper the recovery of the local economy with companies and landlords being saddled with unrecoverable debt, as well as reduced spending in the local commercial outlets.”

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It wants to help people manage their debts – but said: “We have no advisers ready trained in cupboards, so we really need additional resource to recruit and train money advisers to support the additional demand we all know is coming.”

It has therefore applied for a total of £30,000 from the borough council - £15,000 from its South-West Area Committee, and £15,000 from its Central Area Committee – to “increase our capacity to deliver debt advice, as it is expected that demand for this service will double in coming months as redundancies increase and payment holidays come to an end”.

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A spokesman for the service, which has seen a doubling of enquiries month-on-month relating to redundancy, said: “Access to free, confidential and quality assured money advice has never been more necessary.

“If we are not able to secure additional funding, we will not be able to resource the team to meet the demand that we all know is coming.

MORE: Ban on bailiff evictions extended after Ipswich warns of ‘worrying’ homeless rise

“We are concerned that clients will turn to high-cost credit, that they will end up paying for debt advice when our service is free, confidential and regulated.

“Without access to good debt advice, the town will see an increase in child poverty, homelessness and deprivation will increase.”

It added that there would be “new and emerging cohorts of people seeking advice” due to the impact of coronavirus.

Citizens Advice Ipswich has already dealt with 4,000 cases related to benefits 1,350 on debt since the start of lockdown.

It has also seen “substantial increases in demand for information on divorce and housing problems”.

It added: “These issues clearly will lead to substantial reductions in income for households across Ipswich.

“Ipswich Borough Council reports high levels of council tax arrears which are currently not being chased up, but when the ban on bailiff action ends, will lead to hardship for households on reduced incomes.”

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