Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Debt charities inundated

September 26 2009
Research reveals they can handle only half of all calls Debt charities are so overwhelmed they can answer only half of all calls, new research has revealed. National Debtline, a charity part-funded by the government, receives more than 1,600 calls a day, but is able to answer only half of them because of a lack of funding and staff shortages. With unemployment rates soaring, debt charities are facing unprecedented demand for their services, leaving many vulnerable consumers unable to access help when they need it most. Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, which runs National Debtline, said: "About four million people will need debt advice this year, and currently we have the capacity to help only a small proportion of them." Ms Elson added that she feared some consumers struggling with debt might turn to expensive fee-charging debt management companies if they struggle to access advice from a charity such as National Debtline. Eddie Collins, a business management consultant at Citizen's Advice, said that debt was the "single biggest issue" facing the bureau, with one in three enquiries coming from people struggling with mortgage repayments or unsecured debt. He added that demand is so high that some people can wait for up to three weeks to see an adviser. He said: "We now deal with about 7,250 new debt problems every working day, with the average unsecured debt of our clients standing at £17,000." The Money Advice Trust, which runs Business Debtline as well as National Debtline, has a budget of £11.2 million for 2009 and is funded jointly by the financial services industry and the government. In last year's pre-Budget report, the chancellor gave the charity an additional £5.85 million over the next two years. Citizens Advice was also given £10 million, which will allow them to help an additional 600,000 people over the next two years.