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Friday, 19 September 2014

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Shock report shows thousands in South Cumbria are snared in £21m debt trap

THOUSANDS of families in the South Cumbria area are caught in a £20.7m debt trap, according to new figures.

Research by charities The Children’s Society and StepChange Debt Charity shows an estimated 1,588 families, including 2,748 children, in the Barrow and Furness parliamentary constituency, are facing “problem debt” and struggling to meet household bills and repayments.

The estimated total debt owed by families in Barrow and Furness is £7,384,982.

In Copeland almost a quarter of all families were struggling with debt worth an estimated £8,980,394, whereas 1,009 families in Westmorland and Lonsdale were struggling to pay off £4.6m.

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock said: “These figures show just how badly debt is impacting on the lives of many young people. I am proud that local people are pulling together through things like supporting the food bank and alternatives to high-cost credit, but people will struggle until we make this an economic recovery for the many.

“In Furness, it is important to make sure that local families are able to take advantage of the new jobs and opportunities coming to the area.”

The charities’ report, The Debt Trap: Exposing the impact of problem debt on children, claims family debt causes children to suffer from worry and anxiety, experience bullying and miss out on essentials.

Councillor Anne Burns, cabinet member for children’s services at Cumbria County Council and borough and county councillor for Hindpool, said: “I know how hard it is and I feel very sorry for families in this situation.

“I know it’s hard when children need things and Christmas comes around but they need to stop what they are doing and seek advice.”

“We have invested heavily in the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the credit unions which can help.”

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Families in the North West are increasingly relying on debt as a way to make ends meet – but we’re in danger of ignoring the impact this is having on children.

“We cannot allow children to pay the price of debt.”

Mr Reed said families with little savings are vulnerable to unexpected financial setbacks, which can tip them into debt traps.

Anyone struggling with debt can contact Barrow CAB on 01229 831 715.

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