Debt spirals for Ashfield residents

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

NEW figures released this week have revealed that Ashfield’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) dealt with more than £14m worth of debt in the last financial year - up by £2.2m compared to the previous year.

The service, which is based on Market Street in Sutton, dealt with 6,984 cases of debt problems and 6,320 of benefits issues, including helping people to access £1.2m-worth of benefits they did not know they were entitled to.

Ashfield CAB chief executive Sue Davis says: “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 dealt with 26 bankruptcy issues per week and among the most common debt problems were credit and store cards along with unsecured personal loans.

Financial problems also came well above other issues dealt with by the bureau, which included employment (1,354 cases), relationships, family (716) and legal (612).

Ashfield CAB has recently been forced to cut its six outreach services in the district and reduce the number of drop-in sessions because of funding cuts from Nottinghamshire County Council.

Last month, we reported that a new helpline was being piloted with a £90,000 transition grant to create an alternative for people who had struggled to get through on the existing number in the past or lived in an area where the outreach service had stopped.

Ms Davis says: “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.”

It is not yet clear whether the numbers will be as high this financial year because the CAB has had to reduce its service.

Ms Davis says: “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 an advisor about debt or any other issues, call the existing number Mansfield 557617. Alternatively, the new number is being piloted is 08448563411.

An appointment-only session for housing advice is held at Ashfield District Council’s Urban Road offices in Kirkby on Wednesday mornings.

Drop-in sessions are held Monday to Wednesday between 9.30am and 12.30pm at the Sutton office.