Concern at 42 per cent jump in people with debt problems

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The number of people seeking help for debt problems in Lancaster has risen sharply, according to new figures released by a support charity.

StepChange Debt Charity said 553 city residents contacted its helpline in 2013, compared to 390 in 2012 - a 42 per cent jump.

According to the charity’s research, people contacting the charity from the Lancaster area are struggling to make ends meet, and have, on average, just £15 left each month after covering their essential household bills.

And those who contacted the helpline owed an average of £12,319 in unsecured debt last year. It’s feared that not enough people get advice soon enough.

Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity, said: “Debt can have a devastating effect on people’s lives in the form of mental health issues and family breakdown.

“We need people to take early action to prevent some of the worst effects and get back on their financial feet much sooner”.

The findings were released to coincide with the charity’s Debt Awareness Week, which aims to raise awareness of the potential signs of debt problem and encourage people to seek advice earlier.

It’s calling on people to recognise they may have a debt problem.

In particular, people who are juggling or falling behind on essential household bills, borrowing to make it through to payday, making just the minimum repayments on debts, borrowing more to pay off existing debts and getting hit by late payments or overdraft charges are encouraged to seek help as soon as possible.

The StepChange Debt Charity free phone helpline is open 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, and 9am to 4pm on Saturday on 0800 138 1111.

Information and support is also available at www.stepchange.org or on Twitter @StepChange and @Moneyaware.