A Lisburn based charity, Christians Against Poverty (CAP), is writing to local doctors urging them to refer patients who are in need of help with their debts,
CAP was launched last year and is supported by several churches in the city, offering help to local people to manage their debt.
The charity is urging local GPs to consider prescribing debt counselling as well as drugs to those under stress from financial problems.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) discovered that six in ten of its debt clients say their situation had affected their health sufficiently for them to seek medical assistance.
“Before asking for debt help, 65 % had visited their GP while nearly four in ten had been prescribed medication to help them deal with the stress.
CAP’s founder and international Director John Kirkby said: “When we first visit someone, they can be in a very dangerous situation. Often they have no food, no heat, can’t sleep and feel very isolated.
“The change in someone’s outlook and general health once they ask for help can be dramatic.
“On that first visit, we may take the client out for an emergency trip to the supermarket then, during the next few days, we’ll set up a budget which priorities necessities like the food shop.
“Between our first and second visit people will tell us they have been able to sleep through the night, they know they are no longer alone and they have hope that their situation can be sorted out.”
Mr Kirkby added that he was grateful for all those medical professionals who have recognised that some of the symptoms they are seeing can be radically changed by addressing someone’s debts. Now he wants to see more GP’s ‘prescribing’ help from one of the debt agencies.
“In our survey, half of those who needed medical assistance also said they were fearful of losing their home. When GPs are able to signpost patients towards debt counselling they may well be able to save that person’s home and bring about huge relief.
“Our centre managers will go with clients to possession hearings and be able to stop evictions and save people’s homes.”