A leading UK debt charity has reported a record-breaking number of calls from people struggling with personal debt in 2014.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) provides free services and support to those battling with debt problems through its centres and staff in 239 towns and cities across the UK.
The number of calls made to its helpline was 54 per cent higher this January compared to January 2013, and Monday marked the charity's busiest day in its entire 18 years of service. CAP received 155 calls in a single day - a significant rise from the 80 to 100 calls on a typical day last year.
Helen Webb, who leads CAP's helpline team in Bradford, says the increase suggests a worrying trend.
"We can safely say we have never seen it like this," she said.
"And the worrying thing is, we can't see any one reason for high level of calls. People needing our help are coming to us for the same variety of reasons they would normally. If there is one factor that unites them, it is that sadly there is a new level of desperation about those who are calling us."
This increase in need comes as poverty in the UK remains a topic of heated debate. Food banks are reporting a similar rise in demand, and Premier Christian Media has recently announced plans to widen its 'Feed the Hungry' food parcel programme in 2014.
"The rising cost of living and levels of unemployment mean that many people continue to struggle to provide food for their families," Premier's CEO Peter Kerridge commented earlier this week.
"We cannot be idle when there is food poverty in our communities. It is our duty as Christians to help those in need."
CAP operates under the call of Proverbs 31: 8-9, which commands followers of God to "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy".
As part of its debt counselling programme, the charity offers home visits to clients where trained debt counsellors asses the need and help work out a reasonable budget. CAP then deals with creditors and negotiates affordable payments, all completely free of charge.
In addition to debt centres, CAP also runs job clubs and money courses, which help struggling families to get back on their feet.
The charity has repeatedly warned that people in the UK are in such crisis that they cannot afford to buy food, and some have attempted suicide.
"You have to be quite emotionally robust to work on this team, because you hear that real desperation in people's voices, said Webb.
"They are feeling at their lowest, they've often really braved it to ask for help."
However, she notes that the success stories of people who have managed to get completely debt free with CAP's help, make it all worthwhile: "It's a special conversation to have with someone when you're able to tell them it will get better."
For more information on getting help with debt, go to www.capuk.org or call 0800 328 0006.