The link between problem debt and social isolation in Northern Ireland is highlighted in a new report due to be published today.
According to national charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP), a fifth of their clients suffering from problem debt have said they felt so low they didn’t leave the house for weeks at a time.
The loneliness caused by financial hardship is revealed in the charity’s ‘Changing Perceptions’ report, which will be launched at Stormont this afternoon.
The event will also mark 10 years of CAP serving some of the poorest families in Northern Ireland.
“Our findings highlight the secret day-to-day reality of people suffering behind closed doors,” explained Chris Cupples, CAP’s national director for NI.
“People hide away for different reasons: they may not be able to afford to socialise, very often there are struggling with poor mental health and they feel embarrassed or lack confidence.
“In a just and compassionate society, we need to make sure they know we are aware of their private struggles.
“The good news is that in the past 10 years our partner churches have been radically changing the outcome for people by providing a welcoming community and ongoing support while CAP gets to work on their financial situation.”
The charity’s report, based on a survey of hundreds of its debt clients, reveals that more than eight in 10 (85%) said they had felt lonely or isolated, and one in five didn’t leave the house in an average week.
It says low income is the primary reason for debt, with other factors including relationship breakdown, illness, unemployment and bereavement.
According to CAP, its staff and volunteers have helped more than 6,700 debt clients in Northern Ireland over the past decade.
The charity, which opened its first debt centre in east Belfast in early 2009, now has 44 partner churches and 21 debt centres across Northern Ireland.
Last year CAP NI helped more than 1,400 people and celebrated the milestone of its 450th household becoming debt free.
Speaking ahead of today’s launch, Paul Livingstone, partnership manager with CAP NI, said: “While we are rightly celebrating the work CAP has done over the last 10 years in Northern Ireland, and the lives that have been changed as a result, this report highlights the continuing need, as many remain in poverty and debt, believing the situation to be hopeless. CAP and its church partners can help to bring that hope.”
• Many people in debt feel lonely and isolated
Key findings of CAP’s ‘Changing Perceptions’ report include:
• More than eight in 10 debt clients (85%) said they had felt lonely or isolated.
• One in five didn’t leave the house in an average week.
• More than four in 10 (42%) would not see family or friends due to the cost of travel.
• Low income is the primary reason for debt, with four in five (85%) of CAP clients in NI living on an income lower than the UK national average.
• More than a quarter (27%) of households survive on an income of less than £10k per year.
Find out more about Christians Against Poverty at capuk.org