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March 30, 2012

Rising Debt Levels Taking Toll on Carlisle's Older Residents (UK)

Exclusive By Phil Coleman
29 March 2012

A growing number of older people in the Carlisle area are struggling to cope with mounting levels of debt.
Carlisle Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) says more than a third of the 500 or so people who sought debt advice in the final six months of last year were aged 50 or over.
For those aged 50 to 64, the average debt was £16,000.

The average debts reported for clients aged 65 to 74 was £10,000, and for the 75 to 84 age group it was £11,000.
The figures were revealed as a national survey by money advice firm MGM Advantage showed that the average retired person’s debt in the north west is just over £8,000, with only 57 per cent of pensioners being debt free.
Jackie Rhind, service manager at the CAB in Carlisle, said older people were falling into debts for a variety of reasons, in some cases because they were helping out younger members of their family who are short of cash.
She said: “It can be down to a lot of things: events which affect your income, such as illness, disability, bereavement or retirement.
“These are also generations who are less likely to claim benefits. We come across older clients who don’t want to divulge personal financial information to benefits agencies, and there’s a pride issue about asking for help.
“Clients also often get into debt for friends and family who they are helping out, perhaps to put them on the property ladder.
“People don’t always realise the full implication of credit agreements they take on.”
Some of the biggest debts – typically £16,000 – are seen among the 50 to 64 age group who are about to or who have just retired, said Jackie.
“It can have a massive impact on their lives, particularly given the increasing cost of food and fuel. Benefits and pensions are not matching these increases.”
Jackie stressed that there is considerable free help available for those in financial trouble, from both the CAB and from other agencies such as the city’s Law Centre.
CAB manager Andy Auld added: “We’ve seen a steady increase in older people coming to us for debt advice over the last year.
“People from older generations who are in debt not only face emotional and mental strain when they are in debt, they also feel there’s a stigma to being in debt.
“The important message is that there’s no need to feel shame. They should get advice.
“People find that 99 times out of a hundred there’s a strategy to deal with it,” added Andy.
“Often people are not getting the benefits they are entitled to – benefits that they are entitled to because they’ve contributed to the UK throughout their working lives.
“They just need to take that first step of taking advice to get out of the nightmare that being in debt can be.”

A spokeswoman for Age UK in Carlisle said the charity has also seen an increasing number of older people go to them to ask for debt and money advice.

 SOURCE:   News and Stars, UK
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