Record number of people seek help with cash problem

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A RECORD number of people have sought help with debt and problems at home as the bills pour in.

A total of 78 people went to Advice Portsmouth for help on Monday, the highest number the drop-in centre in Kingston Crescent, Buckland, has ever seen in one day.

Staff at the centre – which provides support on a whole range of personal issues – blame the increase in numbers on people spending more over Christmas, changes to the benefits system and the economic downturn.

Jane Henderson, manager of Advice Portsmouth, which employs around 20 paid and voluntary advisors, said: ‘We expect more people in the new year to come to us for help because they have overdone it over Christmas.

‘Families who also get together over that period realise there are problems that need sorting out.

‘But this is a record for us. We normally see around 60 people a day.

‘We kept on top of everything but if we begin seeing those numbers every day then we would have to consider getting in more staff and applying for more funding.

‘A lot of people come to us with debt problems.

‘We either speak to their creditors if they felt they are being threatened or talk to their banks and help if they’re having trouble keeping up with their rent or mortgage.

‘We go through their income and work out what they can afford and organise a sensible repayment programme.’

Mrs Henderson is also expecting more people to turn up and ask for help in applying for benefits in the near future.

Proposed changes to the system include having to apply online.

‘A lot of our clients either don’t have access to the internet or don’t have the skills, so we help them get everything sorted out,’ said Mrs Henderson

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said debt was an ‘enormous’ problem in the city.

‘It is easy for people in Portsmouth to use credit, and lenders are being irresponsible because they give to people who they know will have difficulty paying it back,’ he said.

‘People in debt are vulnerable to loan sharks.’

Advice Portsmouth, which is run by You Trust, was set up in April last year.

It was given three years’ worth of funding by the council, with the option of an extra two if the centre proves to be a success.

It previously existed under the name Portsmouth Advice Centre.