Northern Ireland

Report on debt pressures facing 'low income' women

A report out on Monday highlights the pressures facing women living with debt in some areas of Belfast.

'Beneath the Surface' interviewed women from a range of working class communities.

Many face credit card debt, high interest loans from companies and the spectre of loan sharks.

Dr Stevie Nolan, from Trademark, which carried out the research, said as the cuts hit and unemployment continues to rise, things will get worse.

Women from the Clonard, Highfield, Ligoneil, Rathcoole, Shankill and Falls areas were interviewed.

One interviewee admitted to putting £3,000 through a metered television set, yet still owed money to pay for it, while another related how her husband, borrowing £300 at his local social club, brought local paramilitaries to her door.

One woman interviewee admitted; "I have felt suicidal…I used to hide behind my curtains or sofa when the debt collectors came calling at the door."

Even those who are careful with their finances can find themselves in the debt spiral, with one woman admitting: "I was raised to believe you never get in debt, but my parents always had work, enough to live on and pay the bills. I've never seen that."

'Economic downturn'

Jude McCann, Voices Project co-ordinator at the Community Foundation, which supported the research, said many people will be shocked by the findings.

"Our communities are facing mounting pressure, in the midst of the economic downturn and hearing the voices of the women involved will provide a reality check for many," she said.

Ellen Finlay, co-ordinator with Your Money Garden, which published the research said: "Gathering evidence on living with debt is an important way of informing the ongoing public debate.

"The voices of the women who took part in this study are extraordinarily rich and vivid and this initiative was a significant outlet for them to tell their stories.

"It is crucial to document this information to build a more precise picture of our current debt crisis and to fully examine the issues around debt and affordable credit."

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