Expert help for Fifers on dealing with post-Christmas debt

Many Fifers will be feeling the pinch after Christmas having spent money on food, drink and presents for loved ones.

But, for some, the festive period may have brought additional stress if they are already struggling with debt and money problems.

Doug Drysdale,  CAP debt centre manager for Burntisland and Kirkcaldy. Pic: Walter Neilson.

Doug Drysdale, CAP debt centre manager for Burntisland and Kirkcaldy. Pic: Walter Neilson.

However, there are local organisations on hand to help anyone who might be worrying about their finances and how they are going to manage their bills after the festive season.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is one of a number of free debt counselling services available and the charity has a debt centre covering Burntisland and Kirkcaldy, which is supported by Burntisland Parish Church.

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Local CAP debt coaches and volunteers can visit clients in their own homes.

Doug Drysdale, CAP debt centre manager for Burntisland and Kirkcaldy, said home visits mean the free service can be accessed by anyone.

He said: “All our CAP Debt Centres are supported by local churches and our Kirkcaldy and Burntisland Debt Centre is supported by Burntisland Parish Church. We are able to provide a totally free service because CAP is a charity which receives donations from churches and individuals who want to help people.

“That means there are no financial barriers to receiving our help and we will work to provide a practical solution to your debts.”

Doug said problem debt can affect anyone and the additional strain at Christmas can put a ‘spotlight’ on that debt.

He continued: “Many people hide their debt for years and don’t seek help until their situation becomes critical with potential loss of home or tenancy or threat of court action.

“Changes in circumstances such as a relationship breakdown, becoming unemployed, physical or mental ill health and many other such issues can cause financial difficulties that can quickly spiral out of control.

“At CAP our trained debt counsellors will work out a realistic budget that prioritises essential bills. We will also negotiate affordable payments with each creditor and attempt to stop unfair interest and charges where possible.”

Doug said that sadly, every year at CAP they are experiencing record numbers of referrals and Fife in 2019 was no exception.

“As an organisation we are continuing to rise to the challenge of providing more debt centres covering more areas,” he said.

“Not only is there an increase in the number of referrals but also an increase in the complexities of debts and the devastating impact that debt can have on health and family life.

“Ten years ago, most problem debt came from credit cards, store cards and loans. Today, our nation is increasingly struggling with poverty debts like mortgages, rent arrears, utility bills, council tax arrears, complications over benefit payment, zero-hour contacts and more and more people are struggling to feed themselves or their family.”

But Doug said trained debt counsellors can help people work out a realistic budget that prioritises essential bills: “In most cases a CAP Plan is set up with the client who will make one monthly payment into the CAP Plan to cover bills and debts and CAP will then distribute this on the client’s behalf.

“People can use their CAP Plan to pay bills and debt repayments until they are debt free.”

He added: “We understand that people can feel embarrassed or ashamed and it is a big step to ask for help but we are passionate about helping people find a real way out of debt. We are often asked whether our service is just for Christians. No, CAP will help anyone regardless of their religious beliefs. We monitor our services to ensure that everyone receives the same service regardless of race, nationality, religion, age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability.”

He added: “Making the first call can be hard but the sooner you ring, the sooner you will have peace of mind. To book an appointment, please phone our new enquiries team, call free on 0800 328 0006.”

Support from other organisations

Citizens and Rights Advice Fife (CARF) offer free, independent impartial and confidential information and advice on a wide range of subjects, including debt and money advice.

CARF’s Money Advice Unit has a team of specialist money advisers.

CARF was the first organisation in Scotland to achieve accreditation of SNSIAP (Scottish National Standards for Information & Advice Provider’s) in the areas of money advice and benefits.

There are a number of different ways that the Money Advice unit at CARF can help people with their financial issues.

Advisers won’t tell people what to do, as they leave the choice up to them, but they will explain the options and the possible outcomes people might expect if they choose a particular course of action. They want to empower people to take control of their situation.

Advisers can assist with all sorts of financial issues, from budgeting to repossession.

They also take a holistic approach by reviewing debts, but also maximising income to make sure their clients are getting all the money they are entitled to as well as reviewing expenditure such as fuel/energy bills and insurance encouraging price comparisons in order to get the best deal.

As well as offering options for dealing with outstanding debt the team hope to be able to help their client’s budget, plan and save for future expenditures.

The unit deals with over 2000 enquiries each year.

You don’t have to be behind with payments to seek advice.

Jacqueline McDonald, CARF’s debt advice co-ordinator, said that even if people are up to date but beginning to struggle it’s never too early to seek advice. In fact, the earlier the better as the service is always a busy one.

It’s often the case that just speaking to a member of the team can provide some relief from the pressure of dealing with financial difficulties.

Anyone looking for money advice can contact the CARF Money Advice Unit on 0345 1400 094 or WEBCHAT (via the website), from 8.30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.

On contacting the CARF Money Advice Helpline, you will receive immediate information and advice and where appropriate, given details on how to obtain a face to face appointment with a Money Adviser.

Contact CARF via their website at www.cabfife.org.uk and follow them on Facebook and Twitter @cabfife.