We are encouraging people who have never discussed their debts before to start the conversation during Debt Awareness Week. Citizens Advice is very concerned about the number of people falling into debt – many of whom have never been in debt before.
Between 1 March 2020 and 28 February this year, Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire has helped 2,750 people with over 7,000 debt issues. This is significantly lower than previous years, which would typically be between 3,200 and 3,700 people per year. The charity is concerned that once the restrictions are lifted on possession action, and other debt collection methods, people could find it harder to get help with so many needing advice at the same time. People are urged to get in touch now, rather than wait for further action to be taken. This could prevent court action being taken, and ensure that everyone receives the help that they need.
Typically people have more than one debt issue to cope with, for example rent arrears, utility costs and credit card bills. Being able to afford rent is currently the number one issue, and the number of people experiencing difficulty has doubled in the last year. Fuel debt has also increased by 50% and overtaken credit card payments according to our data.
Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire has seen many worrying cases such as a single Mum with three children and debtors knocking on her door…
“My debts were getting bigger. I didn’t know what to pay first. It was so emotionally draining. I had split up with my partner too.
Citizens Advice called the debt collectors and got my debt put on hold. They helped me apply for a Debt Relief Order and called all my creditors to explain my situation. They suggested ways to budget and save energy costs. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders.“ Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire client
Citizens Advice has a range of online resources to help people dealing with debts. The informative website citizensadvice.org.uk provides advice, links and online tools to assist those that are able to manage their creditors themselves. People can use the benefit calculator, draw up a financial statement, use the sample creditor letter library and access up to date legislation on debt issues. Alternatively our advisers are just a phone call away. Citizens Advice urges people to get in touch as soon as they can on the free phone numbers on www.caox.org.uk
Matthew Smith, Assistant Project Manager Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire said: “I have been involved in debt advice since 2002. I have met numerous clients in my professional capacity. I strive to deal with their financial issues in the best possible way I can. It is about empowering people to make informed decisions and to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. It is hugely rewarding and satisfying when I see people reach positive outcomes with their financial matters. It allows people to have a fresh start in their lives.
Our ethos and what we stand for as an organisation is providing free, impartial debt advice and reaching solutions for all clients struggling with their debt problems. We, as an organisation will endeavour to do all we can for those that need our help and support people to live better lives after visiting us.”
Pat Coomber-Wood, Chief Officer from Citizens Advice North Oxfordshire said “We are deeply concerned about people’s spiralling debt and encourage people to start the conversation this week or as soon as possible. We have employed four new debt advisers across the county to support people. The first conversation is the hardest but once people take that step, it gets easier. No one needs to deal with debts on their own.”
Talk to Citizens Advice