ADVICE chiefs fear hard-up people could see the new year on the streets as they struggle to get out of the grip of debt.
East Durham Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB), in Peterlee, will have seen more than 1,000 people this year, helping them deal with more than £8million of debt, a rise of 20 per cent on 2012.
Bosses say many people “bury their head in the sand” over festive debt, which sparks an increase in clients between January and May.
They also find that more people are going to the bureau with housing and rent arrears and bosses say this could be down to extra pressures over Christmas.
Manager Neil Bradbury said: “Housing debt is particularly worrying and, without help, we will see more people being evicted over the coming year.”
The organisation has also been busy in the run-up to Christmas handing out food parcels to “people who are facing very hard choices”.
Mr Bradbury urged people to “spend within their means” and are asking that residents don’t fall foul of Christmas money woes, especially by relying on controversial payday lenders.
He said: “This trend shows no sign of easing up – the number of clients coming in with debt problems is going up.”
He added that what is more concerning is the type of debt people are getting into. As a result of restrictions on mainstream credit cards for some clients, he feared that some people are turning to “more aggressive” payday loans and hire purchase outlets.
He said County Durham as a whole has been one of the hardest-hit places for Government changes to benefits, but he added that people in work are also feeling the pinch, with both the public and private sector suffering pay freezes.
Mr Bradbury said: “My advice this Christmas is that people should try their very best to spend within their means. Nobody likes to be a Grinch at Christmas, but ultimately people should try their very best not to overspend.”
He urged those needing help to go to CAB and also recommended saving with a credit union to spread the cost for next Christmas.
If people can’t make it into the centre, at Castle Dene Shopping Centre, or an outreach session, they can ring the advice line on weekdays from 10am to 4pm on 08444 111444 or 0300 3300650 from a mobile.