Hartlepool families’ debts will top £10m this year as people struggle to cope

Joe Michna outside the Citizens' Advice Bureau in Park Road, Hartlepool.

Joe Michna outside the Citizens' Advice Bureau in Park Road, Hartlepool.

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STRUGGLING Hartlepool families will see their debts top £10million this year, a charity has predicted.

Bosses at Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) say they are handling 120 new enquiries a week.

We have seen a big increase in the number of local residents seeking advice and assistance with both debt and welfare benefit issues.

Joe Michna, manager, Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau

The news comes after the town was identified as one of the three worst areas in the region for people facing the threat of eviction.

Bureau manager Joe Michna said the year had seen a sharp rise in the number of people asking for help after relaunching their telephone advice service, out of action for 18 months.

“We have seen a big increase in the number of local residents seeking advice and assistance with both debt and welfare benefit issues,” he said.

“The bureau has simply never been busier.”

Between April 2013 and April 2014, the bureau gave advice and assistance to residents with total combined debts of more than £8million.

Although final figures for the present financial year have not yet been collated, bosses say they expect the total to rise to more than £10million.

The problems facing Hartlepool families were highlighted in December, when the town was identified as an eviction hot-spot, with one in every 104 homes at risk of repossession.

Hartlepool had to third worst rate in the North East, behind only South Tyneside and Newcastle, according to statistics published by homeless charity Shelter

The average level of personal debt among CAB clients is between £25,000 and £30,000, excluding mortgage liabilities, and particular problems include rent and mortgage arrears, credit card debts, personal and pay day loans and overdrafts

“We are running an innovative Mental Health Advice and Advocacy Service which is very much in demand and has given advice and assistance to 250 people who have some form of mental health condition, said Mr Michna.

“We could not provide our service without the help of our key funding bodies and we say a special thanks to the Big Lottery Fund, the Money Advice Service, the Northern Rock Foundation and the Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group for their financial support.”

Anyone who wants financial support and advice can call into the bureau in Park Road between 9.30am and 3pm on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Telephone advice is available on 01429 408 401 between 9.30am and 3pm on Tuesday and Thursday and the bureau can be contacted via e-mail on enquiries@hartlepool.cabnet.org.uk or through the website www.hartlepool-cab.co.uk