CHRISTMAS is being unfairly blamed for the rush of Wearsiders needing debt help this month, according to a charity.
Counselling service Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is preparing itself for a deluge of calls this week as concern over “festive debt” grows.
But Theresa Finch, manager of the Sunderland CAP centre, said the influx was not just caused by season celebrations alone, with many money troubles developing over a longer period.
“It is simplistic to think people have done too much shopping at Christmas and then call organisations like ours for help in January,” she said.
“Many of the situations I see are very serious.
“People fear losing their homes and creditors are constantly on the phone causing enormous stress – that doesn’t happen overnight.”
The Sunderland Centre, which is run in partnership with the city’s Bethshan Church, gives a “face-to-face free service” where every client is seen in their own home.
She said they are given the chance to talk through difficulties, often built up over a long period of joblessness, or low income, sometimes mixed with other issues like relationship breakdown or illness in the family.
CAP then gets to work negotiating with creditors to stop interest payments while helping the client to budget and stick to a repayment plan or explore insolvency options.
“When the new year comes along, people long for that fresh start, to find some order and, over Christmas, they’ve had time to find the courage to do it,” said Ms Finch.
“Also, many of the professionals who recommend our services such as council tax or housing officers, return to work following the break which serves to make it a busier time as they deal with a seasonal backlog.”
For more information about CAP’s free debt counselling service in Sunderland and Houghton, visit www.capdebthelp.org or call 0800 328 0006