Thousands of families in debt crisis across Norfolk and Suffolk

Cromer and District Foodbank volunteer Ken Masters. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Cromer and District Foodbank volunteer Ken Masters. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Thursday, August 28, 2014
9:12 AM

More than a quarter of families in north Norfolk and Great Yarmouth are struggling with debt, says a shock report.

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Hidden debt in north Norfolk

Despite its seemingly affluent appearance many north Norfolk families have a “hidden” debt problem, according to experts.

The Rev Sharon Willimott, trustee of the Cromer and District Foodbank, said: “When people come to north Norfolk they think it is the gold coast of Norfolk. When you walk around Cromer and Holt everybody seems happy but family debt is hidden in the back streets. There is a stigma of being poor. The people who suffer the most are the children.”

Since January 1 this year the Foodbank gave out 55 vouchers to individuals or families who sought help from the charity’s five north Norfolk distribution centres – Cromer, Sheringham, Holt, Aylsham and North Walsham – because of debt.

Out of that group, six were families mainly from Cromer. The majority of them worked but were on low incomes.

Mrs Willimott said families in debt could not pay for the basics in life for their children including new school uniforms, shoes and winter coats.

In 2012, well-heeled Holt was named as the child poverty blackspot of north Norfolk, with 24pc of young people living in homes where income was below 60pc of average earnings and families struggled to meet basic needs like food, heating and transport.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said there was a long way to go to reduce the amount of families in debt crisis.

New figures show the apparently affluent area is the second worst in Norfolk when it comes to family debt – only slightly behind Great Yarmouth.

They are both some of the highest figures out of 59 areas in East Anglia which were surveyed.

Research by the Children’s Society and StepChange debt charity says 2,159 families - some 28pc of families in the district - are failing to make ends meet and keep up with household bills and loan repayments.

In Great Yarmouth there are 3,579 families in debt crisis, 30pc of the borough’s family population, compared to 1,948 in south Norfolk or 17pc of the family population.

Great Yarmouth debt problems

Seasonal employment, low wages and changes to the benefits system have pushed more and more Great Yarmouth families into problem debt, according Robert Lancaster, advice services manager for MAP, a charity providing support for the under 25s.

“One of the big problems is when people move in and out of work and their benefits are interupted. We see a lot of young parents going into rent arrears, but they often feel bullied by debt collectors into paying non-priorty debts. There used something called the ‘crisis loan’, which was abolished two years ago, but now people come out of low paid work and without savings they can not afford to feed their families. A lot of families find themselves suddenly destitute. They can’t afford electricity or heating or they turn to foodbanks.

“Cuts to benefits are hitting children. And if they lose their housing, that can interupt schooling. It’s an incredibly serious situation.”

Norfolk Rural Community Council chief executive John Clemo said the findings matched their own figures which showed the cost of living was the biggest issue facing people in rural communities.

It was caused by factors including high transport costs, higher energy costs in older properties, a history of low wages and high housing costs.

Mr Clemo said: “This mismatch between costs and wages will inevitably cause debt issues and this research highlights the very real burden of that debt on the children and families.”

He added that it cost 15-20pc more to live in rural areas and about 35pc more to deliver rural services.

The Children’s Society and StepChange report aims to show the impact of family debt on children.

As household budgets go into the red, parents take on extra credit to pay for essentials for their children.

Youngsters also become unhappy at having to go without and worry about their family’s problems.

Freda Sheehy, manager of Norwich Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), said some people who went to the organisation for help were at the end of their tether and could not cope.

Sue Bradshaw, centre manager for the Fenland branch of Christians Against Poverty (CAP) charity, said it mainly used to help single mothers but over the past five years clients had changed and it was helping more homeowners and working families.

She said reasons why people got into debt included the recession, cutbacks in the private and public employment sector and relationship breakdowns.

“The saddest thing is when families struggle to feed their children,” Mrs Bradshaw said.

For advice call MABS on 01603 506500 or CAP on 0800 3280006.

REGIONAL STATISTICS

Figure 1 relates to the number of families in problem debt.

Figure 2 is the percentage of families in problem debt compared to the district’s total family population.

Figure 3 is the number of children in families with problem debt.

Figure 4 is the total debt owed by all families in the area.

GREAT YARMOUTH

3,579/30pc/6,237/£6,664,584

NORFOLK MID

3,051/27pc/5,317/£5,681,285

NORFOLK NORTH

2,159/28pc/3,763/£4,020,601

NORFOLK NORTH WEST

2,453/22pc/4,274/£4,566,879

NORFOLK SOUTH

1,948/17pc/3,394/£3,627,282

NORFOLK SOUTH WEST

3,403/28pc/5,930/£6,336,817

NORWICH NORTH

2,019/19pc/3,517/£3,758,388

NORWICH SOUTH

2,066/21pc/3,599/£3,845,793

SUFFOLK COASTAL

2,441/24pc/4,253/£4,545,028

WAVENEY

2,582/21pc/4,499/£4,807,241

19 comments

  • I see my link to the Telegraph has been censored once again. Look at todays Daily Telegraph on the internet and there is an article about peoples debt, and owing money. Yarmouth is 8th in the league of the most people either in debt or owing large sums. Not very good is it, and this rag and the Editor are trying to hide the fact through censorship and trying to make out everything is rosy and tickety boo. The truth hurts doesnt it Mercury.

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    "V"

    Friday, August 29, 2014

  • There are no jobs here, there are foreign nationals here with no chance of getting a job along with the local population that can't get jobs either, so why do they stay, they could move on somewhere else but they don't, why is that. There are jobs in other parts of the country yet they stay, are they really happy with their lot, is that why they stay. If you saw the benefits street programme on Great Yarmouth, you would have seen the young couple on it with a baby who spend £60 of their benefits on a smart phone every month and the boyfriend went for a job that he decided he didn't want after about a week and their scrabbling around for change to get food. And Bob Tob are you one of the people your talking about, coming here to get benefits, people shouldn't be coming here to get benefits period.

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    Spooky

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Nick's comment "By far the biggest cost of benefits is the State Pension 36% yet this has seen no reduction, clearly for political reasons". I am on state pension, I work for it and I am entitled to it, I paid full tax all my life when I didn't need to and insurance, so I think I'm entitled to the very low amount that I get, I don't claim any benefits from any other source and can just about manage on what I get. You obviously haven't reached retirement age yet, when you do, if you haven't saved for your retirement years, you will end up on a low pension as well, let's hear from you then on how you cope.

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    Spooky

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • "There is no wealth in the town as there used to be which is why the Market Place is emptying of shops" You are so right BG. This is why The Co-Op closed, M & S are moving out, Stead and Simpsons and Thornton's chocolate shops are pulling out, and now the rumour going about is that BHS and River Island are thinking of pulling out as well. Before long the place will just consist of pound shops, betting shops, charity shops and the market place. Why does Yarmouth need a useless town centre manager ?.

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    "V"

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • I think Nick Clegg has joined, fully paid up members of society..any unemployed immigrants are a drain and should be removed(Freedom to work, not scrounge) and as soon as they have a child, they are a bigger burden to thetax payer then they will ever pay in thanks to benefits, working tax credits, £7k a year free education, if they have 2 children on NMW, they in fact cost us near £20k a year, for what £20 a wk in tax.

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    WTH

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • That`s the rub Nick. The workers to whom you refer don`t live in Yarmouth. You only have to look at the main roads into the town during the morning and evening rush hours to witness the flow and ebb of traffic. There is no wealth in the town as there used to be which is why the Market Place is emptying of shops. It used to be such a vibrant place and a place you wanted to go to. Now you avoid it like the plague. Just look at the people walking around the town. I am afraid my friend you are living in cloud cuckoo land. The council is in debt because of the many social problems it has to address with many of its tenants. And the rest of us are paying the price. Cuts in services.

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    BG

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • "...It is amazing how so many of these people have tv packages which cost anything btn 70 and 100 quid a month ETC ETC ....". Don't forget they all have solid gold toilets , the services of a butler , private medical insurance , free heating , free 4x4 jeep and petrol for life , free membership of the Carlton Club , life time subscription to the Daily Heil and as many troll accounts on here as their personal secretary can cope with.

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    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Oh dear oh dear! All the same old rubbish being touted. The vast majority of EU citizens (both UK nationals and overseas people) moving into places such as Yarmouth are making new opportunities and are fully paid up members of our society. All a good thing for the local economy. The development of the Harbour from a commercial point of view is also providing a good start to the renewal to the local economy. If we did not have a new Harbour facility those opportunities would not be available. It can only be a good thing. The lack of investment however is indeed a good political point, with Norwich by far and away taking the lions share of recent funding (£200 Million for the NDR and Poswick) Instead of complying about 'foreign migrents' 'obese scroungers' and 'benefit fraud' you should all be asking how we can improve such parts of our county. After all it must be remembered that the many successful firms and hard workers who do live in places such as Yarmouth are also contributing a large proportion of the overall wealth of Norfolk and are fully deserving of a fair share of investment, rather than being constantly told they are ALL a bunch of no- good lazy scroungers. That simply is not true.

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    Nick

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • I very much doubt if those commenting live on a council estate in the Borough of Yarmouth like I do and like me see things at first hand. The predicament people find themselves in, is more to do with living beyond their means. It is amazing how so many of these people have tv packages which cost anything btn 70 and 100 quid a month. All singing all dancing smart phones which again cost a small fortune. The takeaways, betting shops and taxi companies would all be out of business if it was not for people on benefits. They are hardly starving because the majority of obese people in this county are on benefits. They are also likely to be heavy smokers and drinkers. So before rushing to blame the govt of whatever colour for changes to the benefits system, start looking closer to home. Many of these claimants live chaotic lifestyles and is it any surprise they cannot manage their money. Instead of giving these people a few cans of food and a packet of biscuits these well intentioned people would do better sitting down with them and giving them one to one advice about family finances. You can go on and on making excuses but at some stage you have to say enough is enough. Merely paying out more by way of benefits is not the answer. Neither is continuing to put all the problem families from all over the country and immigrants in one place.

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    BG

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Forgot to mention. Where are all these thousands of jobs we are supposed to already have, because of the outer disaster, that Castle keeps banging on about ?. These (non existent, high paid fantasy jobs) would eliminate the need for food handouts and soup kitchens. So where are they Castle ?

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    "V"

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • It is also very odd that a recent survey showed that those claiming to be the poorest in society and unable to buy food were also the most overweight, had the most s dogs and the most electronic gadgets

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    blister

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Why doesnt it surprise me that Yarmouth is top ?. Since the nineties, Yarmouth has been an overspill area (dumping ground for the problem families) for the likes of Birminghan, London, Liverpool, Manchester etc, being applauded and welcomed by the Yarmouth councils (labour and tories) just so they can get regeneration grants and other grants that may have been on offer, just for the seafront and vested interests. This was until the Government of the time, realised that not just Yarmouth was spending grant money on other things did they clamp down on this so it is only spent on whay it was intended to be spent on. I blame the councillors and they are all the usual, career councillor old guard.

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    "V"

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • We have 600,000 immigrants on benefits that we didn't have to pay for before. We have 1 million youth displaced trying to get on the ladder by companies employing immigrants on NMW. There are 200-250,000 illegal immigrants a year taking jobs in the black market and depriveing tax paying jobs..All this money has to be accounted for, unless your the EU and never sign your accounts off.

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    WTH

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • You only need to look at a breakdown of 'Benefit Costs' to understand that poorer and disabled people are taking an unfair share of government cutbacks. Disability benefits accounts for only 8% of the total spent on benefits, yet cutbacks here amount to 30%. Employment and support allowance (which now replaces incapacity benefit) only accounts for 4% of the budget, yet has seen some massive reductions in legal eligibility. By far the biggest cost of benefits is the State Pension 36% yet this has seen no reduction, clearly for political reasons. Low employment opportunities for young people in rural areas is compounded by low wages. If you are young its hard to live in rural areas, so people tend to move to places where housing costs are lowest which around here means Great Yarmouth. If you become disabled or are unable to work for legitimate reasons you quickly understand the situation highlighted by this report. As members of society we should be very concerned that we need to look after less fortunate folk and try not to be too cynical over the cost of that to us all.

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    Nick

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • I take it that's sarcasm bob, or at least I hope it is...The only generous benefits go to those that can breed like rodents. Singles get £71 to live, maintain a place, and pay bills.

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    WTH

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • I agree with many of these comments, it is difficult to know wether people tell the truth in any survey there is a tendency for people to exaggerate their hardship rather than say everything is fine. I know many people on low wages or benefits who manage perfectly well because they don't smoke, get tattoos or have expensive flat screen TVs etc

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    michaelfane

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • It is unfair that many refugees, asylum seekers and people from across Europe have come to this country to receive benefits only to find that this uncaring and unfeeling government has slashed benefits and social budgets, very wrong indeed.

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    bob tob

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Don't really believe these surveys, how do they know people are telling the truth and how do they know if the people are spending money on cigarettes , alcohol, dogs or mobile phones rather than food. There are generous benefits , just depends how people choose to spend them.

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    blister

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • It was reported yesterday, that if we were an American state, this country as a whole would be the poorest state due to our wages v's cost of living. The high costs are due to our government selling us out over the many years. All the utilities are just a legal theft from this country and us. Look at just our own Anglian Water, bought for £1.2 billion, have a turnover of £1 billion and £600 million leaves this shore as a tax dodge. Our bills could be a third, or our governemnt could have this money to lower taxes etc.,

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    WTH

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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