Struggling Hartlepool families will see their debts top £10million this year, a charity has predicted.
Bosses at Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) say they are handling 120 new enquiries a week.
The news comes after the town was identified as one of the three worst areas in the region for people facing the threat of eviction.
Bureau manager Joe Michna said the year had seen a sharp rise in the number of people asking for help after relaunching their telephone advice service, out of action for 18 months.
“We have seen a big increase in the number of local residents seeking advice and assistance with both debt and welfare benefit issues,” he said.
“The bureau has simply never been busier.”
Between April 2013 and April 2014, the bureau gave advice and assistance to residents with total combined debts of more than £8million.
Although final figures for the present financial year have not yet been collated, bosses say they expect the total to rise to more than £10million.
The problems facing Hartlepool families were highlighted in December, when the town was identified as an eviction hot-spot, with one in every 104 homes at risk of repossession.
Hartlepool had the third worst rate in the North East, behind only South Tyneside and Newcastle, according to statistics published by homeless charity Shelter.
The average level of personal debt among CAB clients is between £25,000 and £30,000, excluding mortgage liabilities, and particular problems include rent and mortgage arrears, credit card debts, personal and pay day loans and overdrafts.
“We are running an innovative Mental Health Advice and Advocacy Service which is very much in demand and has given advice and assistance to 250 people who have some form of mental health condition”, said Mr Michna.
“We could not provide our service without the help of our key funding bodies and we say a special thanks to the Big Lottery Fund, the Money Advice Service, the Northern Rock Foundation and the Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group for their financial support.”
Anyone who wants financial support and advice can call into the bureau in Park Road between 9.30am and 3pm on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Telephone advice is available on 01429 408 401 between 9.30am and 3pm on Tuesday and Thursday and the bureau can be contacted via e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org
or through the website http://www.hartlepool-cab.co.uk
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 27 Feb 2015
Thousands of people in the North East risk losing their homes this month, new research has revealed.
One in 13 rent or mortgage payers across the region are worried they will be unable to make payments this January, homeless charity Shelter has claimed.
The research, conducted in partnership with YouGov, also revealed 62% of people are already struggling to keep up with their housing costs.
The figures have prompted the charity to warn that ignoring money worries rather than seeking advice could lead to people’s home being put at risk.
A quarter of people in the region said they would feel too ashamed to ask for help if struggling with housing payments.
Shelter has seen a surge in the number of people visiting its website for advice on rent and mortgage arrears, and is urging anyone having difficulty meeting their housing costs to get help as early as possible.
One person who sought help was mother-of-two Katharine, who works unpredictable shifts and lives in constant fear she won’t be able to meet her rent payments each month.
“I work every hour I can to support my family but each month I wonder if I’m going to able to make my rent, and I’m expecting things to be especially bad at Christmas, even though we cut back on spending as much as we could.
“I’ve borrowed money from family and even had to stop paying bills to keep the roof over my children’s heads.
“It’s horrible to start another year not knowing if I can afford to keep my home.”
Shelter’s helpline adviser Nadeem Khan said:
“Every day at Shelter we hear from people who are feeling overwhelmed by mounting rent or mortgage bills, as the increasing pressure of sky high housing costs continues to take its toll.
“Many have spent a long time thinking they have nowhere to turn and are often close to breaking point by the time they come to us. If you’re in this situation, it’s so important to remember you’re not alone and that help is available.
“I spoke to a lady recently who was sick with worry for months because she couldn’t meet her mortgage payments and felt too ashamed to ask for help. When finally a court notice landed on her doorstep she came to us and we were able to help the family keep their home.
“We all understand how tempting it is to bury your head in the sand, but advice from Shelter is only a click or a phone call away – so get advice early to prevent things from spiralling out of control.”
For free and independent advice from Shelter, visit shelter.org.uk or call the helpline on 0808 800 4444
Shelter’s top 5 tips to avoid eviction or repossession:
- Get expert advice. If you are struggling to pay your rent, talk to an expert adviser who can take you through your options and advise the next best steps for you. Visit www.shelter.org.uk/advice or call Shelter’s free helpline on 0808 800 4444.
- Make the mortgage or rent your priority. Paying your mortgage or rent should always be your number one priority. If you have other debts such as credit cards and phone bills you can take action to deal with these separately.
- Respond to letters and phone calls. It’s natural to want to keep your head down and hope it’ll sort itself out but it’s important to read everything your mortgage lender, landlord or letting agent sends to you. Keep records of every letter and phone call.
- Have a rainy day plan. It can take just one thing, like losing your job or falling ill, to put your home at risk. Avoid payday loans, there are usually much safer and cheaper alternatives.
Turn up for court hearings. If the worst comes to the worst, make sure you attend the possession hearing so that you can put your case to the judge. If you don’t have legal representation you can be assigned a court duty solicitor on the day. Get advice as soon as you get the hearing date to give yourself the best possible chance.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Jan 2015