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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Concern over soaring debt
Case workers say amounts of money being borrowed is increasing
The level of debt in Cornwall has soared by 60% in the last year, according to advisors.

The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) says the problem has grown so fast there are not enough caseworkers to cope with demand.

But despite workload concerns, debt charities are still recommending that people get help to sort out their finances.

A quarter of Britons have some form of debt other than their mortgage, research released last month by home loan company The Mortgage Lender suggested.

It's that people aren't willing to pay, they just literally can't
Frances Walker,
Consumer Credit Counselling Service
The manager of the Kerrier CAB, Graham Tierney, says the problem is not the number of clients, but the amount people owe.

He said: "We've seen a 60% increase in the amount of money people owe. It's not necessarily the number of clients we see, but certainly debt itself is going up."

Steve Meakin, a CAB debt case worker, says part of the problem is attitudes have changed and it seems society no longer thinks debt is shameful.

He said: "Another problem we have is that we don't speak in plain English. We speak about 'consolidation of debts' and 'equity release'.

"If we said 'this is a loan secured against your house and you will lose it if you don't keep up repayments', then we would understand what it is."

Frances Walker, from national debt charity the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, said: "People often get into debt because of a change of circumstances, not necessarily just overspending.

Money cards
The CAB says it thinks society no longer considers debt shameful
"Typical cases are because of ill health, job loss, an unexpected pregnancy, or divorce or separation.

"It's best to go to a third party like the CAB or us who can talk to creditors on your behalf and make sure priorities can be paid first, such as a mortgage.

"It's that people aren't willing to pay, they just literally can't and you can convince creditors that you can't get blood out of a stone."

More credit unions are also being created around the county which offer a saving plan where, after a certain amount of time, the saver can borrow double what he or she has saved.

The president of the South East Cornwall Credit Union, Hilary Warren, says such schemes are successful.

She said: "It means people can take control of their money.

"They can manage their money better and young saver schemes encourage good habits from a very young age, so when people are older they can manage their money better."

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