Felicity Hannah: For many years now, Citizens’ Advice bureaux across the country have struggled to cope with rising numbers of people seeking debt help.
In 2009/2010, its offices dealt with 23% more debt enquires than it did the previous year. But with the news that many of its offices may have to close following cuts, it could get even harder to find free face-to-face debt help.
So, if you can’t make an appointment with Citizens Advice, where else can you go for free, independent support?
Turn to the web
The Consumer Credit Counselling Service says it’s seen a sharp upturn in the number of people using its online debt help, so clearly many people are using the internet to help them get on top of problem debt.
There’s a huge amount of debt advice available online, but make sure you’re looking at reliable websites.
We recommend the Consumer Credit Counselling Service's 'Debt Remedy' tool, as well as Citizens Advice’s ‘Advice Guide’ website. There’s also a wealth of information on the National Debtline website – including sample letters for creditors and budgeting tools.
All three of these organisations are independent, impartial and free, so you can be confident you’re being given good advice.
Get on the phone
Not everyone feels confident getting on top of their debt by themselves. Many people want a helping hand from a human rather than a website.
If you can’t get face-to-face help then you may find it easier to get hold of someone on the phone. Citizens Advice, National Debtline and the Consumer Credit Counselling Service all offer telephone support.
Ask other people
The web is a social place but it’s easy to overlook the support your fellow debtors can offer. Talking to people who’ve experienced what you’re going through and come out the other side can be a huge help, as well as reminding you that you aren’t alone.
There are lots of useful chat rooms and forums on the internet. We recommend the debt forum in the moneysupermarket.com community pages.
Paid help from a debt management company
If you need more help than you can find online and by phone, then you may decide to turn to a paid debt management company.
This should not be your first choice as they do take a fee, which means less of your money is going on repaying your debts.
Make sure the debt advice agency you choose is approved by DEMSA – the Debt Managers’ Standards Association. That means they follow the Office of Fair Trading’s code, so standards of support are high.
All the debt management companies featured on the moneysupermarket.com site are registered with DEMSA, plus there are other debt-busting solutions for you to consider.
If you’re struggling with debt, the most important thing is to get help quickly. The longer you leave an unmanageable situation, the worse it will get. If it’s hard to get an appointment with one charity, then ask a different one – don’t be put off getting help.