Debt Centre First To Help Beat Poverty

A pioneering new debt centre is being set up on the Bournville estate in Weston to tackle poverty in North Somerset. The Money Advice Service is the first of its kind in the country and is designed to help people who are struggling with mounting debts and rent arrears. North Somerset Housing, North Somerset Citizens Advice Bureau and Weston and District Credit Union have set up the innovative scheme to offer a range of financial advice on debt, low interest loans and money management.

It is the first time the groups have worked together and the centre will cater for tenants of the 6,100 households owned by North Somerset Housing.

ore than two thirds of these are considered as being on the poverty line. Only 21 per cent of all tenants have jobs and the average income of a household is only £8,600. The Bournville estate is renowned for being a particularly deprived area and it is hoped the new scheme will educate and advise residents on how to manage their finances and pay off their debts.

North Somerset Housing spokesman, Steve Zebedee, said: “In the Bournville estate the levels of deprivation and low income are worse. The focus of the service will be there but the centre will be available for all our tenants. Some of our tenants are in arrears but more often than not they are not deliberately failing to pay their rent but also struggling with bills. We aim to help people struggling to cope and offer them help and advice.”

It costs North Somerset Housing around £6,000 to evict tenants so the scheme will benefit all parties.

The project will receive £100,000 worth of funding for three years and if it is a success more cash could be ploughed into the scheme to keep it running.

The Money Advice Centre is opening up its doors for the first time on December 1 at its base at 3 St Andrew’s Parade.