DESPERATE requests from residents for advice on dealing with debt have risen dramatically in the last month and are set to continue, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Ellie Lawrence, spokesperson for Hillingdon Citizens Advice Bureau, reported that a high number of visitors were seeking help from from their three branches in Hayes, Uxbridge and Ruislip.
She said: "The Hayes office originally opened for drop in sessions one day a week, drawing in at least 50 to 60 people. To deal with demand, the office started to open on Tuesday and Thursday, but the same number of people are now turning up on both days.
"Uxbridge gets about 50 visitors when it opens for drop-ins on Wednesdays, while Ruislip, which is open for drop-ins on Thursday, gets only about 15 people coming in – but the north of the borough is more affluent, which might explain why there are less requests for financial advice.
"Most people are concerned about increasing debt, particularly in relation to being made redundant or having their homes repossessed."
Discussions will begin shortly about opening the Hayes office for a third day of drop-in sessions each week, although according to Barry Evans, who works alongside Ms Lawrence, the outlook is bleak.
He said: "The number of visitors used to change very little year on year, but currently it is changing month on month, with demand continually increasing. Nothing can stop people spending at Christmas but ultimately, they will pay the price in January when seasonal positions close and jobs are scarcer."
Meanwhile, calls to M 4 Money, a non-profit organisation which offers financial assistance to borough residents, have doubled in the past month.
Director Graham Tomlin said: "We have received an unprecedented number of calls in the last month with many requesting money for Christmas spending.
"People need to be wary of using store and credit cards, and be aware of the dangers of going to a doorstop lender, who will offer a typical APR of 183 per cent. Loan sharks and pay day lenders usually offer an APR in the region of 1000 per cent – which will dig people further into debt.
"My advice to people struggling financially is to try and pay at least something to each debt, just to keep the wolf out the door.
"With Christmas coming up, people can save cash by taking advantage of store multi-buys or buying pre-owned computer games for the kids."
M 4 Money is currently offering anyone who is unemployed or on benefits a £500 loan with a 26 per cent APR, subject to status.
For more information and advice, call 020 8573 8010.