SPIRALLING debt problems in Highworth have forced Christians Against Poverty (CAP) to open up a new debt counselling centre in the town, to be fronted by resident Kathryn Ford.

The charity has had a centre in Swindon since November 2009, but the manager there, Geoff Naylor, has spent a disproportionate amount of time visiting people in Highworth, according to Mrs Ford.

As the charity works towards its total of 500 centres across the nation, it identified 14 new locations for a raft of openings, with Highworth’s requests for counselling putting it high on the list of priorities.

“Before this centre opened in Highworth, the manager in Swindon was noticing a lot of interest from this town,” said Mrs Ford, who works as centre manager for three days a week.

“He said he was coming up to Highworth disproportionately. If you look at the size of both towns, the number of people coming from Highworth was significant.

“The debt problems in Highworth are there for the same reason as they exist everywhere nationally. Everything is so expensive and wages aren’t necessarily matching the rise in cost of living.

Honda is close by and a number of Highworth residents have been made redundant there. There are other companies in that area struggling too.”

Mr Naylor said: “Over the four-and-a-half years the Swindon centre’s been open I would say I saw a disproportionate number of people from the Highworth population.

“I wouldn’t say it’s any worse than elsewhere, but the churches have done a great job of making people aware of the service.

“It has been a continuing trend in Highworth. Overall, the need has continued to rise everywhere, which is just the same in Highworth.”

The centre, which will operate out of Sheep Street in the town, will also serve the surrounding villages, including Lechlade, Shrivenham and Blunsdon.

The centre opened in the middle of May, but will receive an official launch at the Highworth Civic Service in St Michael and All Angels Church on Sunday, June 15.

CAP’s debt counselling centres offer a different service to that you might expect from Swindon Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

Users can use the drop-in centre in Sheep Street for a brief chat, or call 0800 328 0006 to make a formal appointment. CAP, however, offers home visits, which are a popular option for those seeking a little more discretion, according to Mrs Ford.

“We are really different to CAB. They do an amazing job, but we are able to do home visits,” she sai.

“We do find people prefer the home visits. I have been out with people around the towns and a lot of the time the paperwork they need is at their homes.

“Having those home visits makes it extra flexible for us and allows us to provide the most comprehensive support nework.”

The service offered by CAP is free. For more information, visit: www.capuk.org