Page last updated at 11:05 GMT, Monday, 7 January 2008

Church launches new debt campaign

Church of England website presentation
The Church urges people to devise an escape plan from debt

The Church of England has launched a campaign to advise people in debt.

It includes a post-Christmas "debt check", with ten points which act as warning signs that people may be spending more than they can afford.

The Church says that 18% of adults in the UK now have debts - apart from mortgages - that amount to more than 10,000 each.

The campaign comes amidst widespread concerns that higher debts may push more people into insolvency this year.

More going bust

Last week, the accountancy firm Grant Thornton warned that excessive spending this past Christmas would be the final straw for many people.

It predicted that 28,000 people would declare themselves insolvent in the first three months of this year, with the total eventually reaching 120,000 for the whole of 2008.

Among the warning signs the Church points to on its check list are needing one credit card to pay off another, and finding that your savings have dwindled.

"If a household can say "yes" to any of the statements on the checklist, it may be on the verge of encountering serious debt issues, and should carefully consider taking some of the advice included in the pages of Matter of Life and Debt," said John Preston of the Church of England.

"If a household can say "yes" to three or more of the warning signs it would be well advised to talk to a debt counselling service, such as the ones we link to online," he added.

Escape plan

The Church's campaign is a combination of practical tips with some reassuring prayers and biblical guidance.

Its main point is that by taking simple steps many people can devise their own escape plan to deal with their debts.

A first step, it advises, is to add up your debts, but not to panic, and then to take some good advice.

It directs those worried about their debts to consult the websites of counselling services and charities, such as Credit Action.

Not surprisingly, the campaign has a Biblical angle, suggesting that people should be content with what they can afford and feel obliged to repay their debts.

As well as practical advice for getting a firmer grip on your finances, the campaign also features a selection of prayers, including one that calls "for a just and lasting solution" to the problem of international debt.

The clergy are offered a selection of Powerpoint presentations for use in sermons or church discussion groups.

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