Almost £6m in debt has been dealt with by three advice workers in the north west over the course of 2015, it has emerged.
The three Debt Action NI experts have been assisting people across Derry, Limavady and Strabane deal with money owed to a wide range of lenders.
One of the biggest things is the ‘ostrich’ syndrome, people burying their heads in the sand- it doesn’t go away.Kathleen Bradley
The team will launch a new campaign at the start of 2016 aimed at getting people to seek help as soon as bills start arriving, in advance of ‘Blue Monday’ in late January.
Kathleen Bradley, Advice Service Manager based at Dove House, said: “The debt workers have been busy all year round and while it is usually a bit quieter at Christmas, as in the summer, we are expecting it to get very busy again in the New Year.
“The type of debt ranges from bank loans to benefit overpayments, mortgages to credit cards to Credit Unions, Pay Day loans, electricity debt and Door Step loans- people coming round and collecting the debt payments.
“They are dealing with people of all ages and all backgrounds- there is no barrier to debt. It could be people who have bought and paid for their house but maybe their circumstances have changed and they can’t afford their credit card bill.”
Ms Bradley said that the debt team were ready to launch a pro-active campaign in January “to say to people to call when you get the bill in, don’t let it get to April or May”
“One of the worst things about debt, and the thing people don’t see, are the effects it has: the loss of income, the break down in relationships before or afterwards, people feeling they are unable to deliver for their families,” she added.
Ms Bradley said that people needed to know that there was help available to everyone to help get to grips with debts.
She added that this was the case even if the problem seems insurmountable to the affected person.
Ms Bradley said: “The biggest point to get across is that it is going to get worse if it is not dealt with.
“And people need to be realistic about what is within the realms of their ability to pay.
“When they know it is not in their ability to pay, there is no shame in lifting the phone and saying, ‘Can I have an expenditure check’ and then we can look at the options available.
“We want people to know they are not on their own.
“One of the biggest things is the ‘ostrich’ syndrome, people burying their heads in the sand- it doesn’t go away.”
She added: “The one thing we have heard over and over with people with debt is ‘I haven’t slept’ and it is extremely important after they speak to the debt workers that they get that physical and psychological rest.
“They need that to be able then to cope with the phonecalls or letters coming, which will happen for a while before it gets sorted out.”
Any local people needing help in the New Year with debt issues or problems is advised to contact the local debt advisors on 71269327 or 71884307 or freephone 0800 9174607.