Not saving but drowning
SUFFOLK is slowly drowning in a rising tide of debt which is ruining lives on a daily basis.Each day more people are reporting to the county's Citizens Advice Bureau network in desperate need of help to control spiralling debt which threatens to throw their lives into chaos.
SUFFOLK is slowly drowning in a rising tide of debt which is ruining lives on a daily basis.
Each day more people are reporting to the county's Citizens Advice Bureau network in desperate need of help to control spiralling debt which threatens to throw their lives into chaos.
Today The Evening Star can reveal the frightening extent of personal debt in our part of the county and the small army of experts who are doing everything they can to limit what is fast becoming one of England's biggest social problems.
Our investigation has revealed that in east Suffolk, four Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) branches advised people with spiralling debt totalling a staggering £12million in the past year and the experts have warned that is just the tip of the iceberg.
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In Ipswich alone more than 200 people have admitted being chronically in debt and together they owe a massive £6million.
The ever-increasing problem is now so bad here the government has given more money to Ipswich Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to help people reconstruct their lives.
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Ipswich CAB is currently helping 225 people to overcome serious debt problems, with the average debt being between £15,000 and £20,000 each.
In Felixstowe the picture is not much brighter. In the 12 months to the end of March the town's CAB dealt with 116 people whose combined debt totalled £1.8million.
In Stowmarket a little more than 140 new clients presented with problem debt in the past year. Combined with the debts of about 35 existing clients the total owed added up to more than £3.2million.
Up the coast in Leiston, in the 12 months to the end of March the town's small CAB branch advised people with a combined personal debt of £1.04million.
Jane London, the Felixstowe bureau's deputy manager, said: “The situation is desperate.
“It's been a steady rise over the last couple of years.
“About four years ago it was £1million of debt that we dealt with. That has nearly doubled.
“The amounts that people are now in debt are often noticeably more. It is not unusual for somebody to owe £60,000, £70,000 or £100,000 in unsecured debt.”
Nick Mayo, manager of the Leiston CAB, added: “It's the tip of the iceberg.
“There will be more but they don't come in. If they do come in it's only when the bailiffs are knocking on the door.”
In eight years the amount of cases the CAB handles has doubled, rising to 1.25million cases.
The UK population is now said to be in debt to the tune of £1.1trillion.
Weblinks: Citizens Advice Bureau: www.citizensadvice.org.uk; Financial Services Authority: www.fsa.gov.uk
IN the battle against the UK's obsession with debt, the Citizens Advice Bureau, along with a number of partner agencies, has just been granted £1.5million from the government's Financial Inclusion Fund to help some of its branches assist more people with debt problems.
Ian Burnett, the manager of Ipswich CAB which is one branch which will receive extra money, said: “Debt is the fastest growing problem issue for our clients and already represents a major part of our advisors' workload, but we know there is still a huge amount of unmet need for debt advice.
“Day in, day out we see the devastating impact of problem debt on people's lives and the desperation people feel about their situation.
“This new money will make an enormous difference to the amount of help we are able to provide, and the number of people we are able to see.”
While some people are already being helped, there are strong suspicions that far more are struggling with the burden of unmanageable debt without any assistance at all.
Jane London from the Felixstowe CAB said: “People tend on the whole not to address the problem. We get people in who have got several months of debt or mortgage arrears and are really being hounded by people.
“Some are very distressed. They're very frightened.
“I think there must be a lot more people out there who are attempting to deal with it themselves.”
HELP is available to those who find themselves suffocating under the burden of debt.
The region's Citizens Advice Bureaus have experts on hand to help people find a way to deal with their debt issues.
Nick Mayo, Leiston CAB manager, said: “If you are really, really deeply in debt it is a very brave thing to come into a CAB and say 'I've got a problem'.
“What we're trying to encourage people to do is take a deep breath and do something about it.”
For help with debt problems visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk or call the Ipswich CAB on 01473 219777, the Felixstowe CAB on 01394 275958, the Stowmarket CAB on 01449 676060 or the Leiston CAB on 01728 832193.