ALARMING figures have revealed the number of families in Birkenhead losing their homes has soared in the last year.

Repossession orders against mortgage holders unable to keep up with payments rose 59% between July and September compared to the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Nationally 11,300 homeowners were evicted in the third quarter of this year, although the real figure is higher when homes with personal loans secured against them are taken into account.

Alec McFadden, secretary of Mersey Advice Centre in Birkenhead, said the figures came as no surprise and called for the Government to do more to help.

He told the News: "The situation over the last 18 months is that we've seen a gradual decline in the quality of people's lives and increasing numbers of people having their homes repossessed.

"The problems in Birkenhead have been worse and we do see more people from here than other parts of Wirral because it has the greatest amount of poverty and places like West Wirral are relatively affluent in comparison.

"The problem with repossession is that it doesn't just affect adults. Kids often end up having to change schools - there are all sorts of social consequences."

Mr McFadden, who is also president of Merseyside TUC, chaired a regional credit crisis conference at Wallasey Town Hall in September, welcoming speakers from trading standards, banks and unions as well as treasury minister and Wallasey MP, Angela Eagle.

He said: "A whole host of welfare advisers were at that conference and they all said the biggest problem is that there isn't sufficient money in the welfare benefits system.

"As it stands now, if someone loses their job and is at risk of losing their house you have to be unemployed for 39 weeks to get assistance. Banks and building societies are taking the keys off people before that and they aren't able to get help from anyone."

Chancellor Alistair Darling pre-Budget report, presented to MPs on Monday, included a plan to give home owners who cannot pay their mortgages a three-month grace period before repossession proceedings start.

Last week housing minister Margaret Beckett, responding to a question on repossessions from Neston MP Andrew Miller, said the Government was working with mortgage lenders, local authorities and the courts to ensure support was available for households in financial difficulty.

But she added: "It is important that we convey the message of where people can seek help - and that they should seek help, rather than waiting until the last minute."

Mersey Advice Centre is at 4 St Anne Street, Birkenhead, and can be contacted on 666 1999.