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UK News

Churches urged to be forward-thinking on how to help people saddled with debt after coronavirus

by Tola Mbakwe

A Christian charity which helps churches support people in poverty has urged churches to be forward thinking so it's ready to tackle issues that arise after the coronavirus pandemic. 

Jubilee Plus said for some people going into debt in order to make ends meet has become almost unavoidable due to job losses. 

Natalie Williams from the charity told Premier Christian News: "Obviously, we'd always want to advise people to avoid getting into debt at all costs. But it's hard to see at the moment for some people how that's going to be possible."

She said she knows of people who have said the coronavirus pandemic has plunged them into a deep life crisis, including one mother who usually donated to her local foodbank but has now started to have to use it. 

Williams advised that people make use of all government support available.

"So if you are in a situation where you've just lost your income…get in touch with your bank to talk about taking a break from your mortgage," she said. 

"Get in touch with your bank to see about extending your overdraft and whether you can have that interest free first of all. 

"I think a credit card will be the last resort. But we totally understand that for some at this point. That is going to be the only option that you have."

As churches work to under incredible pressure to keep food banks stocked, Williams also said they must also be looking ahead to figure out how it will help people who had no choice but to go into debt.

 "In a few months' time when they're saddled with a debt that they had no choice but to get into, how are we going to help people get out of that?

"How are we going to help people not then be trapped in poverty that might hold them down for months or years?

"How are we going to be on the front foot making sure that we are equipped to get people out of that debt and other types of poverty and then help them stay out for the long haul?

"I think this is time for the church to be really, really active and really thinking and praying hard about how we're going to offer solutions going forward."

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it is closely monitoring the coronavirus situation, adding: "We expect firms to provide strong support and service to customers during this period."

Credit card firms will be expected to show greater flexibility to customers with persistent debts, the City regulator has said.

It said it welcomes the steps companies have already taken to offer support to customers and to encourage them to contact their bank or lender if they are experiencing financial difficulties.

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