Young British and Broke: Miquita Oliver Looks at Payday Loans Ahead of Christmas

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By Hannah Osborne | December 4, 2013 4:14 AM EST

Miquita Oliver investigates payday loans (BBC)

A BBC documentary has uncovered the truth behind the controversial lending companies known as payday loans and what affect they are having on young people across the country.

Presenter Miquita Oliver, who has been declared bankrupt herself, looks at the companies who millions are expected to use over the next month to pay for Christmas.

During the film, she meets with people who use the companies to pay for nights out or new clothes, and those whose debts have gone out of control.

"I know what it's like to have debt hanging over you," she said. "For 10 years I was the face of music television but recently I'm known for something completely different - if you Google my name the first thing that comes up is Twitter, then bankrupt.

"At 17 I was earning money I didn't know how to handle, and before I knew it I owed thousands to the tax man. I felt I couldn't breathe and I was sinking. I was so scared for my future and I didn't tell anyone for two years."

During the programme, she meets with one student who says she has taken out around 20 payday loans to pay for nights out and another man who does not like waiting for pay day: "If I see clothes that I want and I don't get paid for two days, I won't wait. I want them straight away," he tells her.

She also opens her own fake payday loan shop complete with secret cameras to find out if people taking them out actually understand how they work.

In one scene, an adviser tells a potential customer the interest will be over 3,000%, which the customer says sounds alright.

Oliver also looks at what people are using the money for - she is told by one customer he plans to buy cocaine with the money, while others explain they need the loan just to survive.

Her investigation comes as Wonga, QuickQuid and Mr Lender - the UK's three biggest payday lenders - face questions from MPs into their practices as the government prepares to impose stricter regulation on the industry.

The UK payday lending sector is currently worth £2bn, and has doubled from 2008/2009. Lawmakers have said the firms "prey on the vulnerable".

In the programme, Oliver faces some of the devastating consequences of the debt amassed through payday loans when she meets the friends of Kenny Davies, a 23-year-old rugby league player who took his own life after getting into debt.

Davies was out of work and had asked a neighbour to act as a garantour for a £3,500 loan over 36 months. The neighbour refused and Davies was found dead in some woods later that day.

Bolton coroner Alan Walsh, recording a verdict of suicide, said: "Kenny kept himself to himself and kept his thoughts to himself. I believe he was a very private man, who could not bring himself to share his problems with friends, family or any one close to him."

Young, British and Broke is on BBC3 at 9pm tonight (Tuesday).

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