Published Friday, 30 November 2012
A total of 270,000 calls were made to the organisation over debt. (© Getty)
Advice NI, which has 69 offices and 185 advisers across the region, said that it had received 270,000 requests for help in the last year, an increase of 7%.
The number of requests for debt advice has risen by 70,000 since 2008, of those enquiries, the organisation has helped 2,200 clients deal with £55m of debt.
Almost half of those seeking advice are homeowners, and 43% suffering from mental health issues.
The organisation is calling on the Executive to include a statutory right to free independent advice by those affected by the changes by recent benefit reforms.
"We have serious concerns regarding the spread of payday loans and a worrying lack of understanding of the new welfare system by those on whom it will impact most," Chief Executive Bob Stronge explained.
Every day our dedicated advisers see the human impact of the continued economic downturn with debt levels rising, concerns over Welfare Reform growing and more and more people being affected.
Advice NI Chief Executive Bob Stronge
Meanwhile, the service helped three times more people access benefits they were entitled to.
A total of £13m in benefits were claimed by eligible people over the past 12 months, including £7m for pensioners.
Mr Stronge said: "The Benefit Uptake direct targeting exercise has put more money into the pockets of many older people across Northern Ireland, with the average weekly amount of additional benefit generated being £61.80 per person."
Advice NI Chair Caryl Williamson emphasised that the organisation was delivering real results to people in crisis.
"There is a huge increase in demand for our services, from vulnerable low income households struggling to cope with changes to the social security system, the impact of the recession and the rising cost of living," she said.
"The statistics highlight the volume and complexity of enquiries, and the literally life changing outcomes that independent advisers can achieve for clients."
© UTV News