The Citizens Advice Bureau has been inundated with clients struggling to cope with debt. The charity says it's dealing with an average of 7,241 new debt problems every working day and the average amount of debt has increased by two thirds since 2001 to £16,971.
Living off a low income, over-commitment, illness or disability, and job loss were cited as the main reasons for debt, with irresponsible lending, poor financial skills and a rising cost of living, particularly in home energy prices, adding to the problem.
"These findings make sobering reading, especially as they are based on data collected just before the worst of the credit crunch began to bite," says David Harker, the chief executive of Citizens Advice. And the situation is not about to improve.
"For many, there is little prospect of their income increasing or their circumstances changing. The reality is that they are condemned to a lifetime of poverty overshadowed by an inescapable burden of unpayable debt," he says.
Mr Harker also called for lenders to treat debtors more fairly and not impose excessive default fees when they miss a repayment. Also, he said he would like to see more free advice for people who find themselves in debt difficulty.