A ST Ives-based charity has been awarded £20,000 to continue its work helping people with crippling debt.

The Bridge Money Advice Centre is a free-of-charge and professional debt advice service providing debt counselling and support for local people. They support disadvantaged people and their families, family breakdown situations and family isolation due to debt.

They were awarded the money by the Lloyds TSB Foundation for England and Wales, and the money will be paid over two years.

Barry Chiesa, lead advisor at the centre in Bramley Road, said: “We're delighted. It will continue our work for some time to come and we will use it to really help more people.

“Basically, it means it is money that the church doesn't have to find and it has released funds to them. We have some equipment that is on its last legs and we spend hundreds of pounds on stamps and stationery so all round the money will help us serve more clients.

“If the funding isn't there, then this is the service that stops and people don't get the help they need.”

He added: “Debt isn't going to go away anytime soon. The average debt we see is £67,000 and we are seeing a lot more referrals from the community mental health team. Clients come from a real cross-section of society, from all walks of life. Debt knows no boundaries. One person can have a debt of £500 and then we see people who run businesses and their debt runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds. The effect is always the same.”

He explained that independent advice services are a vital part of society. With events such as redundancy, relationship breakdown, spiralling debt and homelessness, combined with the need to navigate complex legal, benefit and welfare systems make access to advice essential. He said: “Despite its importance, the provision of independent advice is not a statutory duty. It is delivered instead by a wide variety of organisations supported by grants, donations, public contract income and voluntary effort. All these services cost money and if we are to continue our work with debtors, disadvantaged people, the disabled, the mentally ill and the elderly we need help with funding. This new funding will help us support many more people and help them out of debt.”

Jack Frost, the region's grant manager at the Lloyds TSB Foundation for England and Wales, he explains: “As a grant maker, the foundation is committed to providing core funding for salaries and other necessities to small, community charities, like the Bridge Money Advice Centre, to ensure they can continue to deliver their vital work.”

CONTACT: For more information about the Bridge Money Advice Centre, or to download a copy of Barry Chiesa's self-help pack, www.thebridgechurch.co.uk/about/debt-advice.

Barry Chiesa's top tips to get out of debt

· Work out your budget: write down exactly what you have coming in and what your living expenses are. Whatever you have left, if there is any left, is disposable income that can be used to pay off your debts.

· Contact your creditors: let them know the situation, they can't help if they don't know there's a problem.

· Get help: if you are struggling to cope, don't bury your head in the sand. Contact a free help service, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or Bridge Church Money Advice Centre.