A support and advice organisation for the financially vulnerable have, in just over a year, helped 200 clients in the Ballymena borough each with an average debt of £12,500.
The startling revelation was made to councillors at their Community Planning and Wellbeing Committee meeting last week by representatives of Debt Action NI.
Members were told that from August 1, 2012 - August 31, 2013, Debt Action NI had helped people in Ballymena with a total of £2.5m of debt.
Deputy Chief Executive of the organisation, Fiona Magee revealed that the ‘Top Five’ contributing factors locally were:
* Credit Cards - £689,000
* Personal Loan - £309,000
* Rent Arrears - £225,000
* Bank Loan - £210,000
* Mortgage - £191,000.
“The Service was, and is, very busy here in Ballymena,” Fiona Magee said.
Debt Action NI Project Manager, Sinead Campbell told the meeting that Ballymena was “unusual” in that mortgage debt was usually top of the list, adding: “It’s good to see rent arrears at number three.”
Councillors heard also that Debt Action NI, based in Ballymena at the Gingerbread office on Greenvale Street and with an outreach in Victim Support locally, aims at helping those most financially vulnerable in Northern Ireland.
Province-wide from August 1, 2012 - August 31, 2013, it has helped 6,700 clients with a total £106m of debt and an average of £15,000 per person.
Debt Action NI offers FREE, confidential and impartial debt and money advice services across NI with the purpose of helping people manage their money and debt issues so they can take back control.
It is DETI funded until 2015 and currently has over 27 professionally trained money and debt advisers based in 19 Council areas providing advice on, for example, dealing with priority debts such as mortgage and rent arrears as well as credit card debt, bank loans, store cards, payday loans, door step lenders and so on.
Councillors were told that among the debt remedies which can be offered by the organisation are - income maximisation, budgeting, payplans, bankruptcy, debt relief orders and representation in court.
The service can be contacted on freephone 08009174607.