Thousands owe £100,000 or more, debt charity warns

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The Independent Online

Extreme debt has reached crisis point in Britain, with a growing number owing six-figure sums, according to the country's biggest debt management charity.

Extreme debt has reached crisis point in Britain, with a growing number owing six-figure sums, according to the country's biggest debt management charity.

After surveying the debt burden of its 60,000 clients, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service found more than 800 people had loans totalling £100,000 or more.

The figures come after the Bank of England announced last month that the UK's total household debt has passed the £1 trillion mark. Consumers are frequently allowed to rack up vast amounts of debt without creditors' knowledge by using one credit card to pay off another, it said.

Malcolm Hurlston, the chairman of the CCCS, said that "extreme debt ... has reached crisis point. Three or four years ago it was unheard of to have this sort of debt, and it's on the increase."

The charity said it was defining extreme debt as people who own 16 credit cards or more, or who had a debt of more than £100,000. Although it said 800 of its own clients were in extreme debt, Mr Hurlston said there were likely to be a further 5,000 in a similar situation who were not known to the charity.

The cases of two men who found the burden of debt so great that they took their own lives were highlighted by the charity.

Richard Cullen,a self-employed mechanic from Wiltshire, committed suicide earlier this month after building up a debt of £130,000 on 22 different credit cards.

A coroner examining the suicide of Dereck Rawson, a forklift truck driver, who ran up £97,822 of debt before taking his life in May last year, called for better sharing of data so lenders could see the amount of debt a person had and make informed decisions about lending.

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