THE Salvation Army has opened its first ever Scottish debt advice centre in the Capital.
The service, which will be based at the charity’s Gorgie Road premises, will offer free and practical support to people in “desperate financial need”. Charity leaders said the landmark move was a result of the growing number of people coming through their doors with money problems.
And the decision comes amid widespread concern over spiralling levels of debt and the advance of aggressive pay-day lenders.
The charity StepChange previously warned Edinburgh and the Lothians was at the centre of a massive explosion in personal debt – with the area seeing the biggest increase in average council tax arrears in Scotland, from £1443 to £2255 in a year.
And a report by Accountant in Bankruptcy showed nearly 380,000 people in Scotland were taken to court last year over personal debts – with the Capital again seeing the biggest rise in cases.
Speaking at the launch of the centre on Gorgie Road, Lieutenant-Colonel Carol Bailey said the Salvation Army was seeing “more and more people whose lives are being blighted by debt”.
She said: “Citizens Advice Bureau and other agencies are also inundated with people seeking help. That’s why we feel it’s the right time for The Salvation Army to get involved in this area. We aim to give people a route out of debt by offering them a hand-up, not a hand-out.
“Our service at Gorgie will give professional advice to people from across Edinburgh and the central belt. Debt is an issue we take seriously and a lot of time and work has gone into making sure the service we offer is of the highest standard.”
Further Scottish outposts are planned in Falkirk, Stenhousemuir and Berwick.
Project co-ordinator Claire Buick, a former financial crime analyst, will run the debt advice service in Edinburgh three days a week.
She said: “We understand that providing a listening ear can be just as important as negotiating with a client’s creditors. As a church and charity, we will come alongside people who are vulnerable and offer them practical support.
“We start by working with people to understand the level and type of debt they are in. Then we’ll develop a realistic debt management plan and help clients communicate with any creditors. Where necessary, we’ll offer money education to change people’s habits.”