‘We haven’t seen the worst of it yet’

A Limavady money advisor has seen 115 clients in the last 13 months who between them had a staggering total of £3.785 million of debt, it has been revealed.

Money and Debt Advisor for Debt Action NI at LCDI in the town, Trudie McManus revealed the stark figures, covering the period November 2009 to December 2010, as the latest unemployment statistics showed no let up in the numbers joining the dole queue.

“It really is difficult but 98 per cent of the time I can do something to help people,” Ms McManus said. “I would say I was able to help most of those 115. The only people I can’t help are those that don’t want to help themselves or disengage with the service.”

Those seeking help are from right across the board, of all ages - from young people to pensioners - and the employed to those not working. Types of debt includes rates arrears, higher purchase debts, pay day loans and mortgage arrears with families on the brink of losing their homes. The service is also seeing householders with shortfall debt. “There was one couple who had two investment properties and they had a shortfall debt of £100,000,” explained Ms. McManus, who explained they resolved to pay back £50 a month.

Another major source of debt in the Roe Valley area is from credit cards.

“We’ve had clients with £20-30,000 credit card debt,” she said, explaining people are using their cards to live on. With high mortgages taking up most of their earnings, there is little for some families left to live on.

“They’re using their credit cards to buy the groceries, pay bills, buy oil. People are turning to credit and that was seeing them through at the start of the recession because they could access credit but that avenue has closed to them now because they have used up all their credit.”

Currently, Ms McManus has 170 active cases on her books. “When people come in to see me they think I will ask what they spent their money on and why, but we are not here to judge. We are here to help and the sooner people come to us the better it is for them. I don’t have a magic wand but there is always something I can do. People always feel better when they leave here.”

Shockingly she revealed some people had told her that if it hadn’t been for her help, they would have considered suicide.

Ms McManus warned: “We haven’t seen the worst of it yet. I think there will be more repossessions, more shortfall debt, more people out of work and that will all have a huge knock-on effect. I think it will be five years before things start to settle, but I appeal to people with problems to come to us and seek our help quickly. This is a confidential, free service and we really can help you.”

For information call Trudie McManus on 028 777 29148 or drop in to the office at LCDI at the old Roe Valley Hospital or go online at www.debtaction-ni-net.