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Many of the victims of last year’s Farepak collapse have been forced into a "cycle of debt", it has been claimed.

Unison, Britain’s biggest trade union, made its comments to parliament on Monday, asking why Northern Rock customers were protected but those who lost an estimated £40 million in the Christmas savings scheme last year were not.

The union conducted interviews with Farepak savers and found many had been forced to borrow from relatives or apply for expensive loans.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "Many thousands of low paid workers … lost money and faced a bleak Christmas as a result of the despicable behaviour of the companies involved."

Whatever the reason for expensive debt, many borrowers are beginning to feel the strain.

According to Citizens Advice, it dealt with more than 1.7 million debt problems last year which is an increase of 20 per cent on the previous 12 months.

It accused some companies or irresponsible lending and expressed concern that the collapse of Farepak and issues at Northern Rock had further damaged faith in the financial services market.

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