Hucknall residents sucked into black hole of debt

AT THE SHARP END -- Ashfield CAB chief executive, Sue Davis (left), chats with administration officer Marilyn White
AT THE SHARP END -- Ashfield CAB chief executive, Sue Davis (left), chats with administration officer Marilyn White

STAGGERING new figures have revealed that cash-strapped residents in Hucknall and the rest of Ashfield pleaded for help to deal with more than £14 million worth of debt in the last financial year.

The worrying new statistics have been released by the Ashfield Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) — just weeks after its outreach advice service in Hucknall was axed.

Between April 1 last year and March 31 this year, the level of debt the Ashfield CAB dealt with was up by £2.2 million compared to the previous year.

The service took on 6,984 cases of debt problems, including many in Hucknall, and 6,320 of benefits issues. It helped residents access more than £1.2 million worth of benefits they did not know they were entitled to.

Ashfield CAB chief executive Sue Davis said: “People are coming in with five issues — a couple of years ago they were coming in with two problems. It all interlinks.”

The service also worked on an average of 26 bankruptcies each each week and among the most common debts were overspending on credit and store cards and unsecured personal loans.

Although money worries accounted for the bulk of problems dealt with by the CAB, others in Hucknall and Ashfield over the 2010/11 financial year were employment (1,354 cases), relationships, family (716) and legal (612).

Hucknall’s CAB service, which was based at Under One Roof on Vine Terrace, had to be scrapped, along with five other outreach operations, due to funding cuts from Notts County Council.

Residents now have to access services in Sutton-in-Ashfield on Market Street. But staff are stretched to the limit.

Previously, the Dispatch reported that a new helpline was to be piloted thanks to a £90,000 transition grant from the government. This is to compensate for the loss of the outreach services in areas such as Hucknall.

Ms Davis added: “The demand is still there. We are going to have to find ways of dealing with that demand.

“That’s part of what the transition grant is helping us to do. We are looking at different ways of delivery.”

Statistics on debt problems from CAB could be very different for the current financial year in light of the service cuts as it would be impossible to deal with as many cases.

But Ms Davis warned: “I can’t predict what my stats will be like in a year’s time, but I don’t want it to be interpreted as the issues are getting less. The demand for services has never abated.”

She also said that people should seek advice before it is too late.

“When it gets to final demands and bailiffs, it’s too late. We need people to see us as early as possible,” she added.

To speak to a CAB advisor, call the 01623 557617. Alternatively, the new hotline number being piloted is 0844 8563411.