With many people struggling through post-Christmas debt across Northern Ireland, Advice NI on receipt of a £2.5 million award from DETI NI launches a new, integrated debt advice service which will run until 2015.
The new “Debt Action NI” service is delivered in partnership with Payplan, one of the UK’s largest providers of free-to-client debt advice and aims to help the most vulnerable take back control of their finances. Since operations began in August 2012 the service has helped over 3,000 clients deal with £54 million of debt, an average of £18,006 per person including mortgage debt.
This new innovative service offers a range of access channels to help more people cope with the rising levels of debt. Face to face advice is offered from over 40 outlets across NI, a text service and freephone telephone service is accessible 365 days of the year and a virtual adviser service is available online Monday to Friday.
The Debt Action NI website www.debtaction-ni.net also offers an innovative online budgeting tool, a debt help request form and an assisted self-help option. This self-help or supported debt advice service will ensure that those who are more capable of approaching their debt are supported with information and resources to negotiate with creditors and tackle their situation on their own.
Fiona Magee Deputy Chief Executive of Advice NI saidthe most common type of debt for clients was credit card debt followed by personal loans, catalogue debt and overdrafts. One major problem for people is the fact that they owe money to lots of different creditors.
“For a growing number of people, crippling debt is becoming a major, life defining issue. The Debt Action NI service aims to make getting on top of debt a much more straight-forward and achievable process. We can help by providing advice and support on managing repayments, negotiating with creditors and assisting at court.
One key element of the new service is a way to help pay off multiple creditors through a ‘single disbursement payment system.’ This system allows those who can only afford a small/token offer payment to make a single payment, with Advice NI then negotiating with creditors to agree a monthly repayment. We know that this will be a major help to many people across Northern Ireland.”
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster officially launched the service. She said: “The addition of web-based delivery of debt advice is a welcome innovation, bringing the service to a larger client base and using technology to make optimum use of limited resources. The telephone and web-based services will never be the only routes to advice, but they are a growing part of the debt remedy jigsaw. This new service will ensure each client is able to receive support through the delivery channel that is most closely aligned to their needs.”
Fiona Magee said “the timing of the launch, when many people will be receiving their post-Christmas credit card bills highlights the need for the service.
One client who used the service had two credit cards and over five year his debt spiralled from £7,000 to £15,000 and the interest went from 13% to 40%. He was made redundant and due to the pressure he was under this client had a mental breakdown. The Debt Action NI adviser negotiated a debt management plan for the client.
The client said, “The debt amongst other things nearly destroyed my life. The help Debt Action NI gave me turned my life around. The adviser dealt with my case with sympathy and urgency.”
Anyone struggling with debt should get in touch with the Debt Action service via
Freephone: 0800 917 4607
Text: Action to 81025