Jobless figures up as debt queries rise

THE number of people out of work in Banbridge district has risen by more than 15 per cent in the last year.

Figures for January show that there were 1,187 jobless in Banbridge last month - 162 more people than during the same period last year.

There has been a rise of almost eight per cent on the figures from December to January and Banbridge Citizens Advice Bureau Manager Margaret Ellis said the figures do not surprise her.

“In Banbridge, where unemployment has increased by 7.8 per cent in the last month, there has been an increase in clients approaching the Bureau on matters relating to unemployment, short-term working or being laid off because of shortage of work,” said Ms Ellis.

“This has been accompanied by an increase in clients seeking advice on benefits and on debt, following the increasing cost of living, especially in relation to fuel and basic food items.”

While Banbridge was one of the areas thought to have remained relatively prosperous since the economic slump first hit, Ms Ellis said this has had its own problems.

“Because of this people were more likely to be eligible for credit,” said Ms Ellis. “But we are now seeing this reflected in the number of epople coming to us with debt problems.”

The CAB Manager said things do not look likely to recover anytime soon and budget cuts to the sector could cause further difficulties.

“Banbridge Citizens Advice Bureau itself, which is a charity, is facing cuts in funding which may impact on its ability to deliver the current level of service in the next year,” said Ms Ellis.

“Given the recent announcements about budget cuts and worries over public sector job losses these are very worrying times for many people in Northern Ireland. 

“It is likely that more people will find themselves out of work and having to access and depend upon social security benefits, maybe for the first time.  It is important for those who find themselves in this situation and who are finding it difficult to find out about their entitlements to seek advice.”

CAB Northern Ireland quoted Paul Gosling, a financial journalist, who said Northern Ireland’s economic recovery is struggling.

“He said that with rising inflation now at 3.7 per cent and a predicted rise in interest rates “things are likely to get even worse particularly in Northern Ireland.” “He went on to say ‘Britain as a whole is getting out of recession at the moment but for two areas this is not true – Scotland and particularly Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland there are no strong signs of recovery.”