THE Chichester-based branch of debt charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has issued a stark warning about the dangers of relying on credit to fund Christmas this year.
The organisation is warning people a month before the big celebration to do their Christmas shopping with a clear strategy.
Chichester CAP centre manager Colin Clark said: “These are difficult times for a lot of us and the temptation is to say ‘at least we’ll have a great Christmas’ and use that as an excuse to spend what we haven’t got.
“If you’ve already caught yourself saying this, we want your alarm bells to be ringing loud and clear.
“Over-indulging on presents for everyone in a mile radius is no longer in fashion. Most of us have seen our income squeezed significantly and will be scaling back so we must not feel the pressure to over-consume.”
According to the charity’s own national client statistics, half of those people with out-of-control debt who contact it for help have at some time taken out a loan to cover the cost of the festive season.
Many of those then went on to lose their homes, were unable to feed and clothe their children, suffered mental-health problems and even considered suicide.
“We just want people to enjoy Christmas as the time of hope and celebration it ought to be and not herald the start of a terrible downward spiral,” said Mr Clark.
The Chichester branch opened in 2009 and is based at Chichester Baptist Church in Sherborne Road. It gives free face-to-face debt counselling to all people across the community, not just Christians.
The service is unique because the charity visits people in their own home, sets a budget, contacts creditors and then offers holistic support until the client is debt free – often within five years.
To find out more about the help available from CAP call 0800 328 0006. Alternatively, visit its website at www.capuk.org.