MORE than six million households are believed to be in debt, according to research out today.
The 2003/2004 Debt Survey for the Credit Services Association (CSA) says consumer debt has now reached record levels and is showing no signs of stopping.
And in Kirklees debt advisers are seeing a worrying trend of people taking out secured loans using their house as equity, risking repossession.
John Nelson, debt case worker for South Kirklees Citizens' Advice Bureau, said a quarter of all enquiries at the bureau were concerning debt.
He said over the last three years the average client's debt had doubled.
People from all walks of life sought advice for debt problems ranging from £5,000 to more than £100,000.
Mr Nelson said that over the year, with the rise in house prices, he had seen a worrying trend with more people using the equity in their property to borrow money.
"It is a short term consideration for a long term risk, with people obviously facing the possibility of having their home repossessed if they fail to keep up payments," he said.
Mr Nelson added that people attending the bureau had not been necessarily extravagant and it was usually a change in circumstances such as redundancy, unemployment or marital break-up which caused them to be in debt.
The survey conducted by the Credit Management Research Centre at Leeds University also found the average household owes sums equivalent to 118% of its occupiers' joint income.
Total consumer debt is estimated at £170bn with consumer credit rising at a staggering £1.7bn per month.
The amount of debt passed to CSA members for recovery is more than £5bn. More than 20m cases are handled each year, with an average debt of £1,300.