It is expensive to be poor. Millions of us are being ripped off by a system designed to trap people into an unmanageable spiral of debt. Banks, rent-to-own, payday and doorstep loan companies are all getting rich off the back of our suffering.

If we just look at credit cards – over 4 million of us are in persistent debt, paying back an average of £2.50 for every £1 borrowed. Some cards have an annual percentage rate (APR) of 80%.

People pay these extortionate rates out of desperation just so they can survive. 40% of those on the lowest incomes are using their credit cards to pay for food or other unplanned living costs. One out of every three UK workers has less than £500 savings. Average wages are, in real terms, lower now than before the 2008 financial crisis. Unemployment figures are down and yet the number of people going insolvent in England and Wales last year was at a 7 year high — up 16.2%. People are in work, but still unable to meet basic living costs.

In a system where you are charged more if you are poor, for many, there is just too much month left at the end of the money.

The stress of using loans to make ends meet is overwhelming. So many struggle in secret — sometimes even hiding troubles from spouses. The shame and guilt of not being able to feed your family, heat your home or pay your rent stops people from seeking help when they are most vulnerable. Instead we are encouraged to continually increase credit limits or to pay off existing debts with new loans, feeding a vicious cycle until breaking point.

For many, there is just too much month left at the end of the money

These people are our family members, our friends and our neighbours. High streets are shaped by decreased spending power. Social ties among communities weaken. In a wider sense, the system exacerbates the impacts of austerity and re-distributes wealth away from middle and working classes. The knock-on effects for everyone are astronomical.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Unfair Debt Group is a community organisation made up of those adversely affected by the bad practice of money lenders. We are campaigning for a fairer and more compassionate system.

A responsible and caring Government would protect the public from being exploited. The Unfair Debt Group are working hard to make sure those with the power to make change, do so. We aren’t asking for help to pay off our loans or with financial literacy’- we fully understand how the system is designed. Instead we want better regulation, to be treated with respect and to challenge the underlying causes of hardship: low wages, insecure work and a broken benefits system.

We have already seen progress is possible – such as the cost caps on rent-to-own and payday loans. By empowering others we want to break the false stigma of debt and reveal the true nature of exploitation being forced on the most vulnerable by the most powerful.

We’re making the following demands:

1. No one should have to pay extortionate rates for their debt.
4 million of us are already paying back £2.50 for every £1 borrowed just on credit cards.

    This is why we demand a cap on the total cost of all forms of consumer credit.

    2. No one should be treated unfairly when they are in debt
    As if the financial hardship were not enough, people are also facing emotional pressures and harassment from their lenders.

      • Councils should not use bailiffs to collect debts.
      • Calls to councils from residents seeking help should be free and advisers should be considerate.
      • Easier access to debt advice, including appointments instead of first come first serve basis.
      • The six-week Breathing Space Scheme” on debt to be implemented immediately.
      • An end to unsolicited credit limit increases.
      • Better affordability checks so no one can be given more credit than they can pay.
      • No harassment from lenders.
      • Our debt should not be sold for profit on secondary markets.

      3. No one should have to get into debt just to survive.
      40% of those on the lowest incomes are using credit cards to pay for food or unplanned living costs. We need:

      • An end to Universal Credit.
      • Decent disability benefits, including work capability assessments done by the NHS, not private companies, and a blue badge awarded automatically for those receiving any disability benefits.
      • The re-instalment of 100% council tax benefit across all councils.

      If you have been affected by problem debt and would like to talk to us about our campaign please contact us using unfairdebtgroup@​gmail.​com

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