Bedford Salvation Army ask for help with debt advice service as cost of living soars

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

The Salvation Army has a debt advice centre at its church on Commercial Road in Bedford, one of 25 across the country.

They’re now asking for support to fund the vital service which operates for 15 hours a week and is seeing a “growing caseload”.

Today and tomorrow (28 May) volunteer collectors will be at Morrisons, Bedford and again on 10 and 11 June.

A further collection is planned at Budgens, Bromham on 25 June.

Debt Advice Coordinator at Bedford Salvation Army, Karen Lister, says they’re seeing an increasing variety of people coming to seek help from the service and need help reaching them earlier.

“By the time we meet a client, they could be facing court action over unpaid council tax or eviction from their home,” she says.

“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.

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

Karen’s team of five voluntary advisers and two voluntary administrators volunteers 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.

“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,” added Karen.

Cost of living crisis

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

She says: “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.”

Funding from the supermarket collections will be used to help provide the team with technology and training which will support new ways of working developed during the pandemic.

The service also offers money management and welfare benefits advice to people from all backgrounds and is now being approached by a wider age range of clients.

They can offer telephone or face-to-face consultations and can include foodbank referrals, or even go to a job centre with people, and help them 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.”

If you’d like to make a donation but won’t be able to attend one of the collection days,m you can do so online here.

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