Charity expects large rise in Wigan residents seeking help for debt problems

Experts are bracing themselves for a surge in pleas for help from Wiganers in the red.

Friday, 31st January 2020, 2:18 pm
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 2:19 pm
Credit card bills arriving after Christmas can be a cause for concern

Citizens’ Advice, which helped more than 2,000 borough residents with money concerns last year, is expecting a seasonal increase in people seeking aid with credit card debt, rent arrears and unsecured loans.

Charity bosses said that people behind on their council tax is a particular problem, predicting that 16 per cent of Wigan debt clients will have sought advice on this issue in the first weeks of the year.

They said that January and February is a particularly tough time for debt, as it’s when credit card bills starts to land after the excesses of Christmas.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Lisa Kidston, chief officer of Citizens’ Advice Wigan Borough said: “There is a surge in demand for our debt advice towards the second half of January.

“We know that dealing with debt can be hugely stressful and that Christmas is often an additional burden for anyone already in financial difficulty.

“Citizens Advice can offer free and independent advice and support to help you deal with your debts and get back on your feet.”

It comes as Citizens Advice said it helped 2,098 people in Wigan with debt last year, helping to write off or reschedule £1,818,964.

The charity said it also supported 95 people with insolvency solutions, which included bankruptcy and debt relief orders, as well as signposting another 28 clients to the National Citizens Advice Debt service.

Wigan also has higher levels of over-indebtedness than the national average (17.4 per cent to 16.1 per cent), according to the charity.

Ms Kindston added: “January and October are our busiest months for debt help. Both these months come after periods of high expense for families, and when credit card bills start to land.

“In addition to this, September and October are traditional months for when benefit changes tend to impact households (children ending education).”

Citizens’ Advice said that working out how much you owe, prioritising your debts, working out how much you can pay, and trying to pay some urgent and non-urgent debts, can all help people in a tough financial situation.

Lesley O’Halloran, assistant director for customer services and culture at Wigan Council, said it offered a variety of support for people in financial difficulty and struggling to pay their council tax.

This includes “negotiating” payment arrangements.

She said: “Wigan borough has the second cheapest council tax rates in the whole of Greater Manchester, which in part is thanks to people doing their bit of the deal so we could freeze council tax for six years.

“However, we understand that people do still find themselves in financial difficulty and always offers a variety of support options for those people.

“Our early intervention and prevention approach engages with customers who have difficulty paying and a new holistic way of working includes negotiating affordable payment arrangements, maximising income and signposting to free, impartial advice.

She added: “In line with The Deal values, we are committed to working directly with residents to ensure they are able to access services in a way tailored to them.”

For information and advice contact Citizens’ Advice Wigan Borough on 0300 330 9077 or email [email protected] . Details of debt drop in sessions can be found at www.cawb.org.uk.