CHARLES GRAHAM - Brave mum’s fight against loan sharks

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TODAY we should salute young Wigan mum Amy Mather for having the guts to stand up and be counted.

She bravely came forward to give an interview to the Wigan Evening Post to admit that she had been completely suckered by payday loan companies.

Borrowing £150 for children’s Christmas treats, she rapidly found herself trapped in a spiral of debt.

The victim of what is apparently a classic “rollover”, she went from one loan company to another borrowing further amounts to pay off the previous lenders until, in the space of just a year, the sum owing had ballooned from £150 to upwards of £11,000.

A shocking scenario, caused not so much by initial profligacy as perhaps naivete coupled with the devious yet legal methods of the lenders which include hiding the details of extortionate interest rates in the smallest allowable print.

The Springfield 21-year-old may feel rather foolish and be full of regret, but she is still very much a victim and certainly not on her own.

We are delighted to learn that she has been rescued from this financial nightmare with help from the local Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

Seeking help from this organisation rather than trying to sort it out herself was a move that should be replicated by many in the red.

The CAB helped her to apply successfully for a Debt Relief Order, which is an alternative to bankruptcy, and has helped her get her finances under control.

Meanwhile our local MPs are in the vanguard of hitting back at these payday loan companies.

Wigan and Leigh Debtbusters hopes to raise awareness of the increasing social and economic turmoil being caused by authorised high street lenders – along with the fact that affordable loans, free help and advice are available through the borough’s credit unions and CAB offices.

Furthermore the Office of Fair Trading has announced that it will introduce a power to suspend payday lenders who are causing harm to borrowers.

As ultility, petrol and food bills continue to escalate while wages continue to flatline, there are only going to be more people at risk of falling into debt traps like Amy did.

The greater awareness of the pitfalls and the far more sensible alternatives such as credit unions, the better.