My View, Peter Burrows - The damaging spiral of debt

Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows.
Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows.

In today’s world we regularly seem to hear about debt.

Debt now seems an accepted concept, whereas in the past this wasn’t always the case.

My mother always used to say to me “If you can’t afford you can’t have it”, good advice really. Yet it is now commonplace for thousands of people across the country to accrue debt. This can be for purchases on cars, houses, holidays, renovations, TVs, settees, furniture and mobile phones. These name just a few items that it now seems almost normal for many people to be in debt on.

Managed correctly, this isn’t always a problem.

However, many people out there are miss-sold products by those desperate to make a sale; have changed circumstances that mean they can no longer afford payments; or simply do not understand how to manage debt correctly.

Debt can often lead to more problems, when further loans are taken out to pay off previous debts.

When debts start to spiral out of control, it can have serious effects on people’s lives. Stress can put massive mental and physical strain on individuals, leading to breakdowns in relationships and working patterns.

Sadly, this is true for many people living in communities across Doncaster.

I have heard horror stories from our parishes and communities where payday loan companies and doorstep lenders are aggressively targeting vulnerable people, often already in debt. Sadly, this makes the situation worse as they are often already struggling to support themselves and their families.

It is the duty of us all to realise that we are not all fortunate enough to withstand the pressures of an aggressive sales attack.

We do not all understand the intricacies of APRs and interest rates. Sometime our own friends and families just need help to understand how to get out of this crippling spiral.

Doncaster is lucky that there are many organisations that will help advise on clearing debts, managing money and dealing with the stress it creates.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureaux in the Frenchgate Centre offers help and guidance via phone, internet and in store. The Doncaster Food Bank can help when debts have mounted to the point you can’t afford food.

As a member of the Church of England, I also believe that we, as a church, have a major role to play in supporting real lending alternatives. These are often known as Credit Unions and provide an easy way to save as well as offering low-cost loans. They are not-for-profit which means they don’t need to act aggressively or ‘force-sell’ you anything.

The main credit union in Doncaster is the South Yorkshire Credit Union. It is owned and controlled by its members who are come from the local area. To join South Yorkshire Credit Union, you must live or work in Barnsley, Doncaster or Rotherham.

* Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster