Big thank you from

Jenny Monroe talks to Nicole Byrne, debt and money advisor

NICOLE Byrne, 3I, is a Debt and Money Advisor for a new debt advice service, funded by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Industry (DETI) and managed by local charity Advice NI. The service is provided to individuals across Lisburn District Council area. Just opening this month, Debt Action NI is based in Voluntary Services Lisburn premises at Bachelors walk. In addition, Outreach Services are being provided in Poleglass and Dunmurry. Nicole has extensive experience in providing advice and assistance to individuals in financial difficulty. She lives in Dromore with her husband Gregory and their daughters Catherine and Paige.

I leave my house at 8.20am to be in the office in Lisburn for 9am. The first thing I normally do is drink some coffee to wake me. Then I check my emails. My head office and charity and voluntary agencies are in regular contact with me and I might be organising meetings. As we have just set up we are busy establishing ourselves and it is my job to let the community know what we are about. At the moment I am forging links with local organisations to enhance and complement our services and theirs too. Given the current financial climate, consumer debt levels have risen rapidly. Rising levels of unemployment has led to families experiencing severe financial hardship and being unable to pay their basic essential household expenses.

Debt can have a devastating impact and it is vital to act quickly when debt starts to mount. There is a tendency to avoid the problem, to bury your head in the sand but this really makes the situation much worse.

There are always options regardless of how bad things may appear. Often by contacting your creditors quickly you can arrive at a compromise or an arrangement that enables you to pay back what you can afford and keep your assets, but it is important to seek help from an experienced professional. This is where I come in. People can drop by or make appointments to have a chat with me. I speak to them to see what their situation is and I will identifying emergency cases, which could involve court cases and people being cut off from utilities or having their home or property repossessed. If this is the case I have to act immediately and contact the relevant solicitor, mortgage lender, or creditor and try to come up with a suitable arrangement.

Some people just need help with budgeting and I will go through their finances with them. My job really does depend on what matters present themselves from the different people who come to see me. As well as dealing with financial issues I regularly report to my head office for meetings and updates and I also liase with Nuala McCaffrey who provides the Outreach Service on a part time basis - she has an extensive legal background. I love my job but it is really a lot more complex and difficult than it used to be. There's so many different issues and I always am kept busy but I do like being able to alleviate the problems people have with debt.

I am delighted that we are able to offer this service to people in the Lisburn area. By offering the Debt Action project we are hopeful that we can help those who are struggling financially by providing a professional advice service that is accessible to all.

* All advice is offered on a free, confidential and impartial basis and the Debt Action NI office will be open each weekday from 9am to 5pm. To arrange an appointment at the office or at an Outreach venue please contact Nicole or Nuala on 02892 607840 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

Ulster Star