Mid and East Antrim Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) is predicting a 20 per cent surge in demand for its debt advice services over the New Year.
District Manager of Citizens Advice Mid & East Antrim Michele Campbell told the Times that, based on the experience of the previous two years, the local organisation is gearing up for a post-Christmas rush.
“January is traditionally one of our busiest months, and we have had increases of 20 per cent over the last two years so we are predicting that we are going to have an increase this year as well,” said Michele.
“People tend to leave things until after the holidays and then when everyone goes back to work and the bills for credit cards start coming in at the end of January they get in touch.”
Michele says that those seeking help with their debts at this time of year have not simply overspent on Christmas presents.
“There is an impression that it is people who are overindulging and buying things they can’t afford but the majority are struggling to make ends meet,” she explained.
“There are lots of reasons for debt, the majority is to do with changing life circumstances such as the break up of relationships, sickness, being laid off work or a reduction in hours of work after Christmas.
“We deal with people from across the social spectrum, from professional people to people who are on benefits. Debt can affect anybody.”
CAB offers a range of services to provide support for those struggling with debts.
“We would give them an appointment and try to assess the levels of debts they are in to determine the next step,” Michele continued.
“For example, if they meet certain criteria and the debt is below £15,000 they may be able to get a debt relief order (DRO) which can help to get the debt written off. Or they could start a debt management plan whereby their creditors are contacted, the interest is stopped and a manageable repayment plan is agreed.
“Alternatively there are Independent Voluntary Arrangements (IVA) whereby they can repay a proportion of the debt over five years and the remainder is written off.
“Another option is bankruptcy. We advise and the client decides which route to take.”
Michele is urging those in distress to seek help sooner rather than later.
“The first step is taking control. Our services are completely free and confidential and we can offer evening appointments for those in employment. I would urge people to come to us and seek belp before they get overwhelmed,” she concluded.
Contact CAB on 028 96 001333.