Hard-up Britons are too poor for debt charity to help

A record number of people contacted a debt charity last year but about 160,000 of them were so poor they could not be helped...

A record number of people contacted a debt charity last year but about 160,000 of them were so poor they could not be helped.

The Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) said about one in three people it dealt with had no immediate debt solution.

It claimed these people did not have enough income to enter into a repayment plan, nor did they qualify for any type of insolvency, including bankruptcy. Its only advice was to tell them to find a way of increasing their income – by taking in a lodger, working longer hours or checking they were claiming all the benefits to which they were entitled.

The CCCS said its helpline received 335,323 calls during the year, 25 per cent more than in 2008. A further 150,000 people also sought help online, nearly two-thirds more than a year earlier and double the number for 2007.

However, new credit card laws unveiled today by the prime minister, Gordon Brown, may help struggling borrowers stay afloat and save holders millions of pounds.

Credit card firms will be forced to change the way they make customers pay off their debts, in a move that could save 9 million borrowers a typical £225 each a year. They will no longer be able to increase interest rates if people are at risk of getting into financial difficulties.

The country’s 30 million card holders will also have the right to choose whether or not to have credit limit rises – and their most expensive debts will be cleared first. The regulations come into force in February 2011 but the Government is urging lenders to introduce them sooner.

Brown said: ‘Step by step we are reinventing the financial services industry after the global financial crisis and moving the balance of power back towards consumers.

‘These new rights will put an end to the irresponsible lending practices that people have been most concerned about, and help cut the cost of borrowing.’

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