A SERVICE promising to banish people's debts within four years has been launched in County Durham.

The national debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty (Cap) has teamed up with Durham's Emmanuel Church to open a centre at Front Street, Framwellgate Moor.

People from the surrounding area who are suffering from debt problems are invited to make an appointment, and manager Janet Adams will arrange to visit them at home.

Ms Adams and her support team will sift through the clients' bills, identifying those which are urgent and contacting other creditors to negotiate with them.

Clients whose debts she considers too great for them to tackle will be offered help through the Insolvency Service, with Ms Adams continuing to support them and if necessary, acting as their advocate in court.

She pledges that however extreme their situation, she will eliminate people's debts within four years.

Ms Adams said that no other service provided such comprehensive help.

"It is a professional but friendly service offered free of charge to anyone who needs it," she said. "Emmanuel Church will provide friendship and contact in terms of people getting back into society. We are the only organisation that offers this. It is a brilliant service."

Based in Bradford, Cap runs 32 counselling centres throughout Britain, including one in Newton Aycliffe, near Darlington. In its seven years of operation, it has helped 5,000 clients. As well as getting people out of debt, it helps them to organise their finances better.

Ms Adams said: "We teach people budgeting skills and how to save.

"We also set up a bank account for them where there is no charge, and from that, we pay all their bills."

Although the centre was only launched on Sunday, Ms Adams said she had already taken on clients.

She said: "People who we have told about it have said it's a wonderful service which is really needed for the area.

"I think that in any area, there is a lot of hidden debt. It is not something people talk about."

The centre can be contacted on 0191-375 0148.

Emmanuel Church services are held at Durham Sixth Form Centre, at 10am on Sundays, and Framwellgate Moor Community Centre, at 6.30pm on Sundays.