A COMMUNITY service for people struggling with debt after Christmas opened in Canterbury this week, run by churches and other agencies across the city.
The service, Connecting Canterbury, is opening up every day in churches and community halls to offer financial advice to people with debt problems. The centres also provide access to banking services of the local credit union, Kent Savers, and to Christians Against Poverty, and other organisations.
Figures released by the Bank of England after Christmas showed that the amount of money being borrowed by consumers in the run-up to Christmas rose by £1.5 billion, the largest rise for nearly eight years.
Connecting Canterbury’s chairman of trustees, David Hartwell, said: "We know that January can be a particularly difficult time, but we’re here to serve people in the months and years ahead.
"You do not have to be a church-goer or a Christian to use the hubs, and there is also no cost to using our services. . . Our key principle is that each person who visits us is valued and will be given as much time as necessary to resolve their problems."
Branches of the Credit Union have been running at some churches in the diocese for several years, and offer services such as a Christmas savings account.
A patron of Connecting Canterbury, Julian Brazier MP, said: "I don’t think we can underestimate the feelings of isolation and despair that can be felt by those facing money or personal worries; so to have a network of places where people will be listened to . . . makes this a very powerful asset."