Charity tells of soaring debts among teachers

6th February 1998 at 00:00
Crippling debt is becoming a serious problem within the teaching profession where the number struggling under soaring liabilities has doubled in the past two years.

So many are drowning in debt that the Teachers' Benevolent Fund, which provides financial support for staff, has been forced to employ a debt counsellor. Newly-qualified teachers and single parents have been particularly badly hit.

The fund's chief executive, Patrick Nash, said: "The number of teachers coming to us with debts in the thousands has risen by 50 per cent in the past two years. We are now seeing 10 new serious debt cases every six weeks which account for almost half our cases."

"In these situations, where teachers have debts in four or five figures, they are finding them very tough to service on their salaries, and need support to get back into a sensible repayment situation."

In an attempt to avoid soaring debts, others are turning to unconventional methods to supplement their salaries.

The TES has found teachers who have a part-time career selling household products outside school hours to bump up their incomes. Working for the direct-sales company Amway, the teachers have built up a network of buyers who they approach with products from cosmetics to toilet cleaners.

One 40-year-old primary teacher (who refused to be named) stuck on Point 9 of the pay spine, said her family could not have survived without her sales job.

"We couldn't have managed financially if I hadn't joined Amway. My husband has a small business, but his income goes up and down all the time and we have to support our two young children on my teaching salary of Pounds 20,000.

"I was fed up with not being able to afford anything. We didn't lead an extravagant lifestyle, but we couldn't even afford to go out in the evening. "

Other teachers, however, have been less fortunate. Newly-qualified teachers, particularly those joining the profession later in life with major financial commitments,are finding it impossible to cope on their salaries. Such teachers, who may also be single parents, are taking out loans of up to Pounds 10, 000 from various sources and then finding the repayments beyond them.

"These are teachers who are borrowing from Peter to pay back Paul. It is not a question of giving them a simple cash handout they need advice," said a spokesperson from the benevolent fund.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"Teachers have had inadequate pay increases staged for three years. This is no way to treat our teachers or the profession which is so crucial to the country's well-being."

Pay review, pages 89

Leader, page 18

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