THERE has been a dramatic increase in the number of people in the Salisbury area seeking help for debt problems, according to new figures from StepChange Debt Charity.

Last year, 434 Salisbury residents contacted the charity’s helpline, up from 344 in 2012, an increase of 26 percent.

The figures show people contacting the charity from the Salisbury area are struggling to make ends meet, and are, on average, £22 short of covering their essential household bills each month.

Last year, people from the Salisbury area who contacted the charity’s helpline owed an average of £15,820 in unsecured debt.

The findings are released to coincide with the charity’s Debt Awareness Week this week, which aims to raise awareness of the potential signs of debt problem and encourage people to seek advice earlier.

StepChange Debt Charity is urging to people to recognise that they may have a debt problem if they are doing any of the following:

• Juggling or falling behind on essential household bills.

• Borrowing to make it through to pay day.

• Pnly making minimum repayments.

• Borrowing more to pay off existing debts.

• Getting hit by late payments or overdraft charges.

Mike O’Connor, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity said: “Debt can have a devastating effect on people’s lives in the form of mental health issues and family breakdown. We need people to take early action to prevent some of the worst effects and get back on their financial feet much sooner.”