This article from the UK sadly demonstrates how debt is debt around the world.
Debt is now the number-one problem for people in Wales, new figures from Wales’ Citizens Advice Bureaux showed yesterday.
It is the first time in the CAB’s 69-year history that mortgage debt problems have become its clients’ main concern.
Mounting fuel debt and rocketing credit card, store card and charge card debts in Wales are also revealed in the 2007/08 Citizens Advice Cymru report.
To add to the misery, CAB volunteers say there is growing anecdotal evidence that despite Government calls for lenders to offer more help to householders faced with the nightmare of repossession, the exact opposite is happening in Wales with lenders becoming ever more aggressive towards those in mortgage arrears.
The report reveals that mortgage-related and secured debt loan problems in Wales have rocketed by 60% in just 12 months, overtaking benefits and tax credit-related issues as the number-one problem in Wales.
There were 105,544 debt client issues in Wales out of a combined total of 292,177 client issues last year.
And while credit card debt enquiries across England and Wales as a whole have dropped by 4% in the past year, within Wales alone the CAB has seen requests for help with credit, store and charge card debts jump by 19%.
Jonathan Edwards, head of public affairs for Citizens Advice Cymru, said: “While in more affluent areas people have been using credit cards to buy luxury items, which they are now foregoing, the situation is very different in Wales.
“Here, where incomes are much lower than those in England, people are using credit, store and charge cards to pay for everyday items, including mortgage repayments.
“We also have anecdotal evidence that lenders are becoming much more aggressive in terms of repossessions in Wales, despite all the fine words from Government about hoping for the exact opposite.
“Citizens Advice Cymru welcomes the statements made by the UK Government requesting that lenders view repossession action as a last resort.
“What we need is action to ensure that lenders do everything in their power to keep people in their homes.”
There are also growing fears for the health and safety of thousands of people in Wales who are unable to afford to heat and light their own homes.
Across England and Wales as a whole the CAB has seen enquiries about fuel debt rise by 11%.
And in Wales alone that figure rose to 16% in 2007/08, with some 3,500 people unable to pay their gas and electricity bills.
“With the onset of winter we expect that figure to get much worse,” said Mr Edwards.
Fran Targett, Director of Citizens Advice Cymru, said: “With over £1.4 trillion of debt circulating in the UK economy, the number of debt cases dealt with by the CAB service in Wales has been increasing year on year.
“The fact that debt-related cases is now the number-one issue for our clients is testament of the increasing money-related problems faced by individuals and households in Wales.”
The CAB is now campaigning for financial inclusion to be more of a priority for the Welsh Assembly Government.
“There is a clear case for financial inclusion to be pushed up the political agenda in Wales,” said Ms Targett.
“We look forward to responding to the forthcoming Government of Wales Financial Inclusion Strategy and making the case for such a structure via the creation of a National Money Service for Wales.”
Meanwhile, the Nationwide Building Society has just announced a three-year partnership with the CAB.
Its £3m investment will fund the recruitment and training of 1,300 volunteers at more than 400 bureaux over the next three years who will provide financial education training and advice on money matters across the UK.
David Harker, chief executive of CAB, said, “Nationwide’s support means that bureaux will be able to reach hundreds of thousands of clients in their local communities with financial education sessions and advice on money matters.”