Bishop's concern at debt levels

ONE of the region's bishops has spoken of his concerns at the colossal levels of debts people get themselves in to - which he fears is putting pressure on family life.

By John Howard

ONE of the region's bishops has spoken of his concerns at the colossal levels of debts people get themselves in to - which he fears is putting pressure on family life.

The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, the Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, has spoken out as many spend heavily over the festive period.

He says he is concerned at the amount people are borrowing and fears it could damage family life.


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Bishop Richard said: "Consumer debt is very closely related to a lack of faith in the future and fear. People feel it is all right to borrow to the hilt now, they might as well enjoy things while they can.

"People do not want to think about the future too much and it is very worrying the level of debt – it is colossal.

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"Debt puts pressure on the family and the emergence of loan sharks is symptomatic of that.

"A lot of loans have high interest rates and some companies are just too greedy, and have hidden interest rates. The weak and the poor are the most vulnerable, as they always are.''

Helen Oldfield, manager of the Mid Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) in Stowmarket, said debt could destroy families.

She estimates people they see have an average of £15,000 to £16,000 in debts through loans and cards and nearly a quarter of all their 11,000 enquiries last year were about debt.

She said: "Debt is a major problem locally, I have been quite shocked by the level about here. Everything is hidden under a veneer of affluence in picture book villages.

"This time of year people are stacking up debt on their credit cards and even in Suffolk, door to door money lenders come round to ply their business.

"People can fall in to debt for all kinds of reasons, not just peer or media pressure, although that can happen. More importantly people's circumstances can change so swiftly, jobs are insecure, sudden ill health of the main bread winner can plunge the whole family in to debt together.

"The overall effect is a lot of stress, health related concerns, can have a negative impact on a family's well-being and ability to stay together.''

Mid Suffolk CAB, along with other CAB organisations, offer free and impartial advice, helping people to manage their debts and prioritise repayments, even negotiating with creditors.

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