SDLP finance spokesperson Dominic Bradley has called for more help for families trapped in debt as new research shows people here have a higher than average amount of unsecured loans. 

The Newry and Armagh MLA was speaking after the StepChange charity published its report showing levels of personal debt amongst its clients are 20 per cent higher here than in Britain.

Mr Bradley said: “It’s alarming that there is a 20 per cent differential between debt levels here amongst StepChange clients and those elsewhere. An average of £18,400 debt is an unsustainable amount of money for many under-pressure households, particularly if the majority of that debt is owed to credit cards or pay-day loans companies, which both operate at high interest.

“More must be done to help people in financial need, who through no fault of their own are struggling to pay bills. Banks are applying stricter lending criteria and many people have no alternative than fix a long-term problem with a short-term answer.

“According to the Credit Union, a typical payday loan taken to meet household bills amounted to £289. Average interest rate was charged at about 39 per cent which means that NI Consumers total cost of credit on £289 is £403.

“The SDLP has backed calls at the Assembly, Westminster and council level to stop the influence of payday loans companies. We will continue to do so.

“Meanwhile, I urge people thinking about taking out payday loan, particularly in the run-up to Christmas to establish if alternative options are available to manage any immediate financial shortage. The reality is if you are finding it difficult to stretch your finances then the last place you should be visiting is an unregulated lender.

“Offers of easy credit with extortionate rates of repayment will only serve to worsen any financial position. I therefore ask anyone considering such a loan to call organisations such as StepChange, Debt Action NI, Credit Union, Citizens Advice Bureau or St Vincent de Paul.

“Governments are finally recognising the blight these lenders have on society and I remain hopeful that further work will be done to ensure stricter regulation of the industry.”

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