Debt help for resort

WITH many families in Felixstowe suffering money worries and debt problems, a new service has been launched to help them with their finances - and keep out of the clutches of loan sharks.

WITH many families in Felixstowe suffering money worries and debt problems, a new service has been launched to help them with their finances - and keep out of the clutches of loan sharks.

Research has shown many at the resort have unexpectedly severe financial problems.

This has them “financially excluded”, unable to open bank accounts or secure loans, with often high-interest lenders the only option.

But now a Credit Union has been launched to help people get into the saving habit but also to give them low-cost loans to overcome specific difficulties.

“We know doorstep lenders, charging extortionate interest, are rife in Felixstowe - targeting certain areas of the town where people are vulnerable and need money,” said Simon Pain, development officer for Ipswich and Suffolk Credit Union.

“We want to give people a different option.

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“It's not just about saving - though one of our aims is to encourage people to get into the saving habit so they have money already put aside for Christmas, big items of expenditure or the future.

“We also can help with loans for specific purposes.

“While some lenders will always want to lend people more than they need, we can give people a specific amount for a new washing machine or to pay for garage repairs to get their car back on the road, for example. We can even pay the money direct to the provider.”

People are eligible for loans after 13 weeks of saving. Interest on a loan of £100 amounts to around £6.50 if paid back over 12 months - one per cent a month on a reducing balance.

The Credit Union, which is regulated by the Financial Services Authority exactly the same as high street banks and building societies, works with local groups and churches to set up collection points for people to be able to save. Volunteers man the points.

So far it is working with the East Suffolk Mind Caretaker's House and HEART Foyer housing, and a public collection point has been established at the Citizens' Advice Bureau.

“If we can help some people to manage their finances better and just get them back on track that will be an excellent achievement,” said Mr Pain.

Anyone who would like to find out more about the Credit Union should visit the CAB in Orwell Road on Wednesdays between 10am and 12 noon, or ring 01473 690690. Volunteer collectors are also needed.

See page 17 for advice on how to handle post-Christmas debt.

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