by Neasa MacErlean
People seeking free advice on their debts are typically in their 30s in Canterbury — and significantly younger than the national average, according to research by a charity.
Christians Against Poverty (Cap) operates across the UK and says the national average age of those seeking help is 45 — while in Canterbury it is 37.
The group says the advantage of receiving debt advice at a younger age is that people are still young when they clear their debts.
The Canterbury Cap centre has the capacity to help 60 families or individuals a year. The average time it takes for our clients to go debt-free is 21 months and about 25% of Cap’s clients went debt free in the last financial year.
Cap helps people negotiate with their creditors, start budgeting and begin saving.
Canterbury clients tend to fall into two main groups — single mothers and single men. Unemployment, mental health and relationship breakdown are the three main causes, and often two or three of these factors come together.
Women with children tend to suffer serious anxiety when they fall into debt, says Cap.
Rebecca Leeves, Cap’s centre manager, said: “Mums feel the stress. The women we see tend to be much more emotionally affected by debt. They have sleepless nights, they worry about someone knocking on the door. They don’t go out because of debt.
“Men tend to come more through the encouragement of a support worker. It’s more like tidying up for them. There’s less anxiety.”
And talking of the value of seeking help early, Rebecca added: “Any kind of intervention is better sooner. They’ve got their life left to use it in. We were seeing 22- and 23-year old women a year back. They had a lack of awareness regarding water bills.
“No one had told them they needed to pay for water. They had left home at 16, pregnant and no one has mentioned water bills to them. So they had years of unpaid water bills. If you catch them young it’s a great education piece. If they have learnt then, hopefully, they’ll never get into that situation again.
“You are giving hope when people thought there was no way out.”
Log on to the Cap website if you think it can help you with debt.