Cost of Christmas is too much for some

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CHRISTMAS is all too often the tipping point for those struggling with debt or personal problems and Samaritans are invariably busier at this time of year than any other.

Money worries are the number one reason for people to reach out to organisations like Samaritans, and Scotland director, Andrew Sim, said: “Samaritans receives over 2.5 million calls a year and, since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, the number of people calling us about their money worries has doubled. If you’re struggling to cope with the challenges you’re facing in these difficult times, we’d encourage you to get in touch with Samaritans. Our service runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is available throughout the Christmas period.”

Personal debt in Berwickshire continues to grow, and over the past year the local Citizens Advice Bureau has been helping clients deal with a combined debt of over £1 million, an indication of the scale of financial problems being faced by many.

One in five people contacting the Samaritans this year talked about job concerns, housing problems, debt and other financial pressures and when the charity published its annual survey last week it revealed that 56 per cent of people in Scotland fear they won’t have enough money to live comfortably in the coming year.

But possibly more worryingly is that a CAB survey showed that 90 per cent of Scots thought they could handle their debts without any outside help. Over 2.3 million people in Scotland (56 per cent) of the population over 18) have unsecured debt (debt beyond their mortgage) and the reality is that almost one million of them won’t be able to deal with it on their own and will eventually have to seek a solution either through a debt management plan, Individual Voluntary Arrangement, bankruptcy order, a debt relief order or other means.

Berwickshire CAB manager Rhona Calder said: “Getting into debt is a vicious circle, and many of the debt clients we see tell us they started off with just a small debt but it spiralled out of control. You can save yourself so much heartache by giving those adverts a miss. Or if you have to borrow, make sure you borrow at a fair rate from a responsible lender.

“If you are already in debt, don’t despair - there is help available. You have to face up to the problem, and we know that is difficult. But our expert advisers can help you, and our help is free, confidential and completely impartial.

“No matter how bad your debt is, there is always some route that you can take, and we will help you do that. Usually this means coming up with a realistic repayment plan, and we can sometimes increase your income by telling you about benefits you didn’t know you were entitled to. Often we can negotiate with your creditors on your behalf, and perhaps reduce or freeze your debt. In extreme cases, bankruptcy may be an option, and we can talk you through that.

“It is essential that people who are in this position have access to the sort of independent, expert advice which is free from the CAB.”