CHARITIES are warning about a huge increase in the number of people in south Essex asking for help over their debts.

The StepChange Debt Charity says the number of people in the SS postcode area calling its helpline asking for advice has shot up by 39 per cent.

Last year, 1,676 people in the area contacted the charity’s helpline, up from 1,211 in 2012.

The charity adds people in the area have been on average £38 short of covering their essential household bills each month – and owed an average of £14,588 in unsecured debt.

The Rochford and Rayleigh Citizens Advice Bureau says it has also seen a 39 per cent increase in inquiries about debt online in the two weeks after Christmas – compared to the same period the year before.

Sue Murray, district manager for Rochford and Rayleigh Citizens Advice, said: “January is always a busy time of year for us, with lots of clients coming in with debt issues.

“It is important people dealwith outstanding bills as soon as possible and don’t ignore them, hoping they go away.

“The sooner advice is sought and creditors engaged with, the less chance there is of the debts escalating and repayment becoming harder and more unlikely.

“This is particularly important in the case of mortgage or rent arrears, as these could result in people losing their homes.”

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


Citizens Advice Bureau’s Advice for tackling debt

  • Sort out what you owe
  • Work out which are the most urgent debts for you to pay off and how much you have to pay each of these off
  • Deal with the most urgent debts as a matter of priority
  • Look at your options for dealing with the less urgent debts and work out how to pay them off after you have cleared the most urgent debts
  • Contact your creditors and make arrangements to pay back what you owe
  • Work out your options if you don’t have enough money to pay off all your debts
  • Seek help from the Citizens Advice Bureau or other free advice agency to start dealing with your debt