1. ITV Report

Our Debt: The True Cost

Britain has a debt crisis on its hands with millions of us potentially heading for big trouble, according to an expert. Credit: ITV Tonight

Britain has a debt crisis on its hands with millions of us potentially heading for big trouble, according to an expert.

Martin Lewis made his name as the MoneySavingExpert.

He tells tonight’s programme: "So do we have a crisis with eight million people who are struggling to sleep at nights because of their debts? Yeah that's a crisis if you ask me."

The average British household now owes £58,000 including mortgage debt.

Mortgage repayments is a contributing factor to the national debt. Credit: PA

Last year families spent on average £900 more than they earned, according to stats.

Mr Lewis believes many households do not realise problem debt is a very real threat.

He said: "Let’s make this plain, when people who haven’t experienced it think about debt crisis, they think about someone who has been out spending, putting it all on the credit cards and it’s all gone wrong.

"But, actually what you often find debt crisis is about, is change of circumstance.

"Losing your partner; getting divorced; losing your leg. All of those type of things are huge factors when it comes to debt," Lewis added.

Reporter Aasmah Mir meets Mark and Liz Naude who ended up in £36,000 debt.

The average British household now owes £58,000. Credit: PA

The couple say they were recommended an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA).

It is where you pay a percentage of your debt - the rest is written off. It took seven years to clear.

They weren’t homeowners so In hindsight, they wish they had gone for the short sharp shock of bankruptcy.

Martin Lewis added: "Bankruptcy is a bogey word."

"It scares the pants off lots of people. But actually done right, it’s one of those things that people tell me I am so glad I did it."

Mr Lewis believes many households don’t realise problem debt is a very real threat. Credit: PA

Debt-ridden single parent mum Gemma goes for help to adviser Jane Clack of Payplan.

Gemma, who owes £6,000, explained how it felt building up the debt: "I used to wake up in the morning, get the girls ready or take them off to school, go out for the day - avoid being at home completely. I didn’t want anyone to come round to my house - any bailiffs, any enforcement officers.

Jane concludes a Debt Relief Order may be her best option. She adds: "Please don't be ashamed to go to a food bank. At the moment you are in crisis and you are trying to move forward and this will enable you to do so."

Then there’s Anthony Martyn who was asset rich but in £40,000 of credit card debt after his wife died and he spent all their savings on living costs.

For him, equity release was the answer, he unlocked some cash tied up in the value of the bungalow where he lives.

"If something big goes wrong in your house you’ve got to pay for it from somewhere. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke.

"I don’t go on lavish holidays. I don’t ride around in a £50,000 car," says Anthony.

But Martin Lewis cautions that you need to understand the risks.

This kind of loan is repaid when the house is sold after you die.

"Now the problem with not paying it off is that means the interest accrues and accrues and accrues so if you got an equity release at six percent that means the amount that you borrow would double every twelve years.

"So If you are doing equity release, do as little as possible as late as possible."

Aasmah Mir also meets Ian Wright who used payday loans to prop up his lifestyle when he lost his job. He recently got £300 compensation after claiming he had been mis-sold a loan.

Martin Lewis reminds viewers that there are free online tools available for viewers who believe they have been treated unfairly by the payday loan sector.

Our Debt: The True Cost is on ITV this evening at 7.30pm.

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