Derry’s £28.9m debt

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Derry’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau has dealt with a staggering £28.9m worth of debt in the past eleven months, the Sunday Journal can reveal.

The figure is the biggest in the history of the money advice service based at the Embassy Building in the city centre, and looks set to exceed £30m, as more debts are reported over Christmas and into the New Year.

The number has more than doubled from last year’s total amount of £13.75m, which the bureau dealt with on behalf of clients during the period from January to December 2011. Money Advice Supervisor Liam Doran said the biggest issue staff are being presented with is mortgage arrears,

“In the past ten years, this is the worst we’ve seen by a long distance,” said Mr. Doran. “People are falling behind in their mortgages due to loss of employment and we’re seeing people experiencing shortfalls of anywhere between £5,000 and £250,000. This in result is pushing the numbers filing for bankruptcy up as well as the number of house repossessions,” he added.

The city is on its knees and we’re seeing people faced with desperate situations every hour of every day.

“We’ve been working non stop here to help the people coming through our doors and despite the fact that we’re being told about the ‘green shoots’ and hints at economic recovery, I don’t see an end to it coming soon with the unemployment figures we’re experiencing in Derry.”

The local financial expert says it’s vital that people go to an organisation like Citizen’s Advice at the earliest possible opportunity if they are experiencing financial hardship.

“We really want to encourage people to approach us as soon as they fall behind in repayments,” Mr. Doran added.

“The earlier we see someone, the easier it is for us to step in and help and the better for that person. These huge debt issues are having a knock on effect on peoples lives, their health and their relationships and we want to let people out there in the city know that there are options available to them but they need to come forward as soon as possible.”

Mr. Doran said the volumes of people seeking money advice was higher than ever before.

In years gone by, typically our busiest periods would have been from the end of January into February and March when people had problems dealing with Christmas debt but the footfall through our offices is now non stop every month of the year, and I have every belief that will continue in 2013,” he said.

To contact the Money Advice Service at Derry’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau, telephone 02871 370337