Eviction terror as financial crisis continues to bite

MORE cash-strapped residents in Hucknall and Ashfield are finding themselves at risk of losing their homes as the financial crisis continues to bite.

That’s the news from the district’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) as its advisors continue to deal with the credit crunch ‘on the front line’.

Deborah Hughes, a debt caseworker at the Ashfield CAB, said that since the middle of last year she has been seeing more people who fear eviction for defaulting on their mortgage.

“The problems seem to be more complex than they were before,” she said.

“People come in with credit cards, store cards and loans, warrants for disconnection of gas and electric — a lot of them have multiple issues which creates a lot more work and a lot more stress.”

The causes of this escalating personal debt are often, said Deborah, unemployment and ill health, especially mental-health issues.

“Hours are being reduced or they have lost their job, then it impacts on their health,” she said. “A lot of clients have depression or anxiety and that prevents them from going forward and getting another job.”

Last financial year, the Ashfield CAB dealt with cases involving more than £14 million of debt — £2.5 million more than the previous year.

Its caseworkers saw a 42% increase in bankruptcy-related issues and a 65% increase in debt-relief orders, which you can apply for if you cannot afford to pay off your debts and owe less than £15,000.

More people are also turning to so-called ‘payday’ loans, but they often find that the huge interest rates mean that debts soon mount up and become unmanageable.

One client of Deborah’s had taken out 15 different loans from Internet services and ended up owing thousands of pounds when they could not pay them back by the deadline.

Other effects of falling household incomes include more Ashfield folk not being able to pay their gas and electricity bills, meaning they are forced to sit at home in the dark and cold.

“They have not got enough money when we do a budget with them, even for clothes and shoes,” said Deborah. “We get clients who cannot afford a washing machine and they have five or six children.”

Another recent pattern that the CAB has seen is a rise in the number of older and elderly people who are in debt.

“At one time it was very rare to see the elderly but we are getting more retired and pension-age people in now, which is quite alarming,” said Deborah.

Other people suddenly finding themselves in difficulties are those who were in a secure financial position and used that to help their children out financially.

“It’s not that they have been frivolous with their money, it’s a sign of the times,” said Deborah.

“They have been very careful and had savings but have helped their children out and ended up with nothing.”

There is still a social stigma associated with getting into financial difficulites, but Deborah said that anyone who finds that they cannot pay their bills should seek advice.