Almost one in three residents in parts of Sussex are falling behind on their debt repayments, a new study has found.
More than 100,000 people in the county currently feel their debts have become a “heavy burden” or have fallen at least three months behind on their loans according to a new Government report.
In Brighton and Hove, about one in seven residents regard themselves as over-indebted while the figures are one in five in Eastbourne and one in eight in Worthing.
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Hastings has the highest number of “over-indebted” residents in the South East with 28% of residents struggling with their level of debt – far higher than the national average of 18%.
The figures are based on the report by the Government Money Service.
Charity workers said the number of residents seeking debt support continued to rise and residents were increasingly turning to credit cards and payday loans.
Jackie Grigg, director of debt charity Money Advice and Community Support in the Old Steine in Brighton, said the service advised 428 people for the whole of 2012/13 but has already had 607 enquiries since April last year.
The rising number – which includes 450 referrals from Brighton and Hove City Council, including residents struggling to pay rent or council tax – is despite the service only operating ten hours a week and not advertising its advice line.
She said: “We thought we had hit a peak last year but the number of residents needing advice keeps going up and up.“ There seems to be more and more people trying to budget as frugally as possible but still finding there’s not enough around to make ends meet.
“We are seeing more and more people use credit cards and payday loans not just for a new fridge or a holiday but to prop up their weekly income.”
John Puttock, a debt adviser with St Luke’s Advice Service in Exeter Street, Brighton, said the debts of clients currently seeking help with his service ranged from £168 to £67,000.
He added: “We are also seeing more people coming to us with short-term loans and payday loans which tend to have very high interest rates.”
Brighton and Hove Citizens Advice Bureau in Tisbury Road, Hove, has helped 211 clients with 1,013 debt problems since April 2013 with each client suffering from £11,557 of debt on average.
Operations Manager Imogen Forbes advised it was important people “don’t wait for debts to mount before they seek help”.
Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye Sarah Owen said “The Government’s own shocking figures show how they are failing to get a grip on the cost of living crisis in places like Hastings and Rye.”
Brighton and Hove CAB will be at the Jubilee Library on Thursday January 30 as part of Big Energy Saving Week.