Page last updated at 18:58 GMT, Thursday, 22 January 2009

Debt advice calls 'rise by 30%'

Louise Walter
BBC South West

CAB Cornwall
Demand is so high, volunteers are unable to answer every call for help

A charity in Cornwall has reported a steep increase in people asking for help in the past year.

In 2008 the county's Citizens' Advice Bureau was contacted by 45,000 new clients - an increase of 34% on the previous year.

Graham Tierney, its operational director, said most callers were asking for help with redundancy, mortgages, loans and domestic violence.

He believes the increase in demand is related to the downturn in the economy.

Mr Tierney told BBC News, volunteers have been working to maximum capacity, but admitted there have been so many calls they simply cannot answer them all.

People are coming in with no money, no electric, no food
Vicky, CAB volunteer

In the last quarter of 2008, there was an increase of more than 300% in calls about redundancy, compared to the same period in 2007, while inquiries about mortgage and secured loans increased by 110%.

He said the bureau was dealing with more serious cases from a wider variety of clients than in previous recessions.

"People from middle incomes and higher incomes are also being affected as much of those in lower incomes," Mr Tierney said.

Vicky, a CAB volunteer said: "We're seeing more crisis situations. People are coming in with no money, no electric, no food".

CAB Cornwall volunteers
The charity is looking for volunteers who are non-judgemental

Meanwhile, Robin, one of Cornwall CAB's case workers, said he has seen bankruptcies increase in a year from eight a month to about 18.

To meet the increasing demand, the charity plans more phone lines, more locations and extended opening hours, but urgently needs more volunteers to man the services.

"Training is intense and thorough, but you do not need to be an academic to volunteer," CAB partnership manager John Ede said.

"We need people who are non-judgemental It's not about remembering all the facts, the training is about where to look up the information".

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