A rise in interest rates, even half a per cent, could push some households into debt, a local adviser has warned.
Portadown-based Sam Walker, who works for Debt Action NI, also said that credit cards are among the top three debts in the Craigavon area, with some people using them to pay for essentials such as food, fuel and childcare.
The Gilford man said that since the downturn began the charity helps “semi-professional” people it would never have seen in the past.
“They are people who would have been in reasonably good jobs - they had a mortgage and a car loan, but everything was ticking along nicely.
“Then they didn’t get a pay increase or they lost their job. Even if they got another job it wasn’t always as well-paid as before or it was an hourly rate.”
Mr Walker said he deals with a lot of people in negative equity and those who are just managing their current payments and nothing more.
“The only thing that’s saving them is that the mortgage rate isn’t moving at the moment,” he said.
Some clients, he added, are still dealing with debts from last Christmas.
He explained, “Just three years ago, credit card interest rates were sitting at 11 per cent APR. Now, they’re mostly between 18-19 per cent, and that’s more money people have to find.”
He has urged anyone struggling with debt to seek help to get it under control.
Mr Walker, who is based at ABC Community Network in Church Street, and his colleague Jim McDowell, based at Mount Zion House in Lurgan, have seen 560 clients with over £10.2 million of debt since August 2012.
According to Mr Walker, the Portadown office is less busy than the Lurgan one, but has clients spanning all ages. “There are young people who need jobs but the work is no longer there,” he said.
Anyone worried about debt should phone Mr Walker on 028 3839 5090 from Monday to Wednesday and on 3082 5250 on Thursday and Friday.