The number of people seeking help for debt problems in Bradford has increased by more than a third in the last year, according to a charity.

In 2013, StepChange Debt Charity’s helpline was contacted by 1,335 people – up from 973 in 2012.

The organisation said last year Bradford people contacting its helpline were on average £11 short of covering their essential household bills each month and owed £12,222 in unsecured debt.

The 37 per cent increase has been highlighted to coincide with the charity’s Debt Awareness Week (January 20-26), which aims to raise awareness of the potential signs of debt problem and encourage people to get help sooner.

The body’s chief executive Mike O’Connor said: “Debt can have a devastating effect on people’s lives in the form of mental health issues and family breakdown. We need people to take early action to prevent some of the worst effects and get back on their financial feet much sooner.”

The focus week is the latest national campaign to get people talking about the money worries and agencies dealing with the issue are joining forces to promote the free expert advice available.

Step Change Debt Charity’s research also shows that the over 60s now owe more than any other age group, with their debts averaging £23,000.

Age UK is also seeing a significant increase in the number of older people falling in to debt also, possibly linked to a drop in income when reaching retirement, fuel costs and them falling victim to doorstep lenders.

West Yorkshire Trading Standards ( WYTS) is aiming to tackle the problem across Bradford through its SAFER (Scams and Fraud Education for Residents) Project, which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and has reached more than 2,500 older people since it started in November 2012.

Councillor Val Slater, chairman of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, said: “The Safer project not only enables older people to feel confident in their communities and in protecting themselves, but also improves the overall health and wellbeing by tackling fuel poverty and reducing anxiety and stress which is often emphasised by debt and financial worries.”

The project has helped 327 older people manage a total of £331,039 of debt of which £193,712 has been completely written off.

StepChange says people a debt problem if they are juggling or falling behind on essential household bills, borrowing to make it through to pay day, only making minimum repayments, borrowing more to pay off existing debts or getting hit by late payments or overdraft charges.

For more information on the WYTS project contact Lanson Moore (0113) 393 9808 or e-mail