A new debt advice service is being launched in Northern Ireland, where people are more likely to be in financial trouble than anywhere else in the UK.
More than one in five people in Northern Ireland are struggling with debt and at least 26,000 of them are not getting the help they need, according to the charity Citizens Advice.
Disposable incomes in Northern Ireland are £2,889 lower than the UK average and – despite more people in the region saving every month – 50% could not deal with an unexpected £300 bill.
That’s why Citizens Advice Northern Ireland and the Money Advice Service are teaming up to launch a new service, which will offer people phone, email and face-to-face appointments, and can be accessed through any of the region’s 30 Citizens Advice offices.
Pól Callaghan, executive director of Citizens Advice Northern Ireland, said: “Every year, we help thousands of people with money and debt problems, but we know that many more cannot get the help they need.
“So we are delighted to be launching this new service with the support of the Money Advice Service.
Mr Callaghan said 62% of people struggling with debts are in families, but added that the service is also there for students, young workers and older people.
“This service is here for everyone. We have designed a service available to people when they need it, how they need it.
“All our advice is totally free, impartial and confidential. Thousands of people have felt a weight lifted off their shoulders by getting debt help, and we can now help even more.
“Now is the time for people to take a first step towards a debt free future.”
Janine Maher, Northern Ireland manager for the Money Advice Service, said: “Northern Ireland is one of the most vulnerable areas in the UK when it comes to levels of debt so it is vital that help is available for those that need it.
“We know that debt advice works but currently only one in five people with financial difficulties seek advice.
“We are calling on everyone with problem debt or money worries, no matter how large or small, to access free advice as soon as possible.”