COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Church Action ties UK debt with Third World

KIRSTEN DOWNER

An exchange programme between a town in the North-East and a Filipino shantytown is being used to demonstrate the links between poverty at home and abroad.

"People are rightly concerned about international debt issues but there are also significant debt issues on our doorstep,

said Alan Thornton, debt link worker with Church Action on Poverty. "Three million households each week are forced to rely on extortionate door-to-door money lenders just to make ends meet."

Twenty per cent of people in the UK do not have a bank account and now Church Action on Poverty is trying to build awareness of the spiralling debt problem by linking their campaigning with the huge momentum already forged around Third World debt.

The "Debt on our doorstep

campaigners have planned a series of lobbying initiatives throughout the year, culminating in a march on Parliament this November.

A video of the exchange between a Filipino shantytown and Thornaby-on-Tees, near Middlesborough, is being sent out to school, church and community groups around the country and in a series of "debt hearings

over the next few months, senior financial managers will meet with people experiencing debt problems. Business representatives from Barclays, the Co-operative Bank, Provident Financial and pawnbrokers are all involved with the scheme, along with a benefits watchdog and a selection of cross party MPs.

Church Action on Poverty will feed details of the hearings to regional and national media. It will also use the hearings to formulate formal policy recommendations, to present to the Government at November's event.

The charity wants the Government to tighten up the law to make it harder for irresponsible lending agencies to exploit poor families.

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