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Personal debt levels higher in Northern Ireland says charity

Levels of personal debt in Northern Ireland are 20% higher than the rest of the UK, according to a charity report.

StepChange, a nationwide debt advice service, said its clients owed around £18,400 on credit cards and unsecured loans. The UK average is £15,300.

In the first six months of 2014 the charity helped almost 2,000 people in Northern Ireland, where it has an office in Limavady.

It said there was a move towards high interest debts such as pay day loans.

In recent years the types of debt held by clients in Northern Ireland have gradually, but significantly changed, said the charity.

Debt owed on pay day loans and to shopping catalogue companies – both high interest – has increased radically.

It suggested this is because banks have applied stricter lending criteria post credit-crunch.

People are turning to other forms of credit to plug the gap in their finances, the charity added.

StepChange said unemployment and reduced working hours were the primary drivers of the local debt problem.

It added a particularly worrying trend was among self-employed people who had average debts of £36,000.

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