Help is out there for those in debt - and you can help by telling your friends, family and neighbours.
That’s the message from a new city-wide campaign aimed at helping those struggling with the misery of debt and money troubles.
Leeds Joint Debt Forum’s Helping Hands initiative is calling on everyone to look out for their neighbours, friends and family by making sure they know that help is out there.
The forums can offer help and advice finding affordable sources of credit such as credit unions. They can also let people know which organisations can offer advice on money related matters and provide help to victims of loan sharks.
Family break-ups, self-harm, substance abuse and even suicide can be some of the damaging effects of money troubles, the forum says.
Norah Gibson is chair of West Leeds Debt Forum, part of the joint forum, which is “busier than ever” in its 12th year.
She said: “It’s all about keeping an eye out for those around you who might be struggling. You might be chatting to someone in the launderette who says their friend is struggling, or notice that Fred down the road is looking worried. No one should have to lose sleep worrying about money.
“We can all do our bit to help those who are struggling and point them in the direction of help - especially at this time of year, when the Christmas bills are unpaid and the loan sharks are circling.
“Recently we learnt of a horrible situation when a lady had paid out £80,000 to loan sharks over three years after her daughter borrowed just £500.
“We don’t want people to get into these desperate situations - there is so much help out there.”
It is estimated that 22 per cent of households in Leeds live in poverty. In some areas, more than 40 per cent of children - one in three - live in poverty.
Just because you are in work does not mean you are safe from the clutches of poverty.
Figures from the Joint Leeds Debt Forums estimate that around 10 per cent of people in full-time work in Leeds have an income below the living wage.
Many households have to borrow to meet their weekly living costs . In Leeds, the average debt is equivalent to about 111 per cent of income, and every day, 44 people are declared bankrupt.