Appeal to support free debt advice as cost of living soars

published on 27 May 2022

Supermarket shoppers in Bedford are being asked to support a free service which helps people facing financial hardship.

The Salvation Army has 25 debt advice centres across the country, including at its church on Commercial Road in Bedford.

In May and June, volunteer collectors will be in local supermarkets, raising money for the service which operates for 15 hours a week through donations from the public and other organisations.

With the cost of living crisis showing no signs of easing, Karen Lister and her debt advice team in Bedford are seeing an increasing variety of people coming to seek help from the service.

Karen Lister, Debt Advice Coordinator and her team of five have helped more than 40 people in the past year.

The five advisers and two administrators are all volunteers. Two also have paid jobs elsewhere.

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The Salvation Army's debt advice centre in Bedford has helped more than 40 people in the past year

Karen explained: “Most of our volunteers are now well into retirement, with one retired adviser who has volunteered in the sector for over 20 years, still letting people know about our service.”

“Debt can happen to those who suffer a bereavement, people experiencing domestic violence or someone affected by long term health problems for example.

“By the time we meet a client, they could be facing court action over unpaid council tax or eviction from their home. We may have already sorted out insolvency options for others and, after matters are resolved, will sometimes keep cases open for a period should any follow up action be required.”

With prices rising at their fastest rate for 40 years and energy bills soaring, Karen fears the situation will deteriorate further.

She explained: “If someone gets £77 a week on benefits, they will be spending most of that on energy costs alone this year. Some families are surviving on £25 a week for food.”

Karen said funding from the supermarket collections will be used to help provide the team with technology and training.

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The Salvation Army's debt advice centre can help with paperwork

She said: “The pandemic has taken us into a different way of working. Our advisers come from different areas, abilities, backgrounds, understanding and experiences; we need to consider the cost of recruiting volunteers accordingly.

“As well as debt cases, we also offer money management and welfare benefit advice. We help people from all backgrounds and we are now being approached by a wide age range of clients. We offer telephone or face-to-face consultations. Other support we offer can include food bank referrals, going to the job centre with people, or helping with paperwork.

Karen added: “We want people to feel that the centre is a place where they can get help without being judged and find support for other problems apart from debt which have a detrimental effect on their lives.

“We have a growing caseload – we just want to get it right.”

Collections for the Debt Advice Service will be held at Morrisons Bedford on 27 and 28 May and 10 and 11 June while a further collection is also scheduled for Budgens Bromham on 25 June.

Donations can also be made online by clicking here


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