Warning over Christmas debt

A local councillor has warned people in Derry of the dangers of getting into debt with high interest money lenders in the run up to Christmas.

Sinn Féin councillor Colly Kelly made the warning ahead of the Christmas shopping period, a time when many people are subject to increased financial pressure.

Colr. Kelly said it is particularly important that people are aware of the high interest rates associated with so-called ‘pay day’ loans.

He also warned that illegal loan sharks and money lenders often target vulnerable people in the run up to Christmas.

The Sinn Féin colr. said; “As we head towards the busy build up to Christmas there are many people in our city who will be feeling the strain financially.

“Sadly, there are those who will see these situations are fertile ground for ‘loan sharks’ and illegal money lenders to set up in communities and target people who are finding themselves in financial difficulties.”

Colr. Kelly also encouraged people who are in financial difficulty to seek help from debt advice services and legitimate financial institutions.

“I would appeal to anyone who is trying to gather the money together for presents and get extra food in for Christmas and finds they are having money problems no matter how big or small to seek help straight away and to use the likes of the local Credit Unions.

“Unlike the impersonal nature of many banking institutions the Credit Union is community based and welcoming of all irrespective of financial situation,” he added.

The Cityside colr. also encouraged people to support local financial institutions like the Credit Union.

“For this reason communities embraced the Credit Unions as the ‘People’s Bank’. Credit Unions are now part of the social fabric of most communities.

“We don’t want to see the scourge of either loan sharks or illegal money lenders compounding the problems of people in dire need,” he said.

Debt advisors at community financial advice service, Dove House, have also encouraged anyone experiencing difficulties with their finances to seek help as soon as possible.

The service provides advice at a number of locations thought the north west, including from its base at Dove House in the Bogside, as well as its satellite advice centres at Fanad Drive, Creggan, Hillcrest House, Waterside, Caw Community Centre, and Strabane.