My mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; we had noticed that she was starting to become forgetful. She’s always been a strong person, but around that time, I visited her and found her in tears. Every day, right up until 10pm, she was receiving phone calls in pursuit of various debts.
This surprised me, as she had never had any debt problems throughout her whole life. But various creditors were pursuing her relentlessly, so much so that she didn’t want to wake up in the morning, because a new day would mean more phone calls demanding money. I looked through the paperwork and found that a family member had run up substantial debts using a credit card in her name.
Around the same time, my mother also faced a reduction in her income. She had been caring for my sister who has some disabilities, but we arranged for my sister to go into a care home as mum was struggling to cope. As a result, she no longer received the carer’s allowance. But the other family member just kept on using the credit card. Every time mum received her pension, the bank just used it to pay off some of the debt, which meant that she didn’t have the money to pay her bills.
Since my mum couldn’t possibly pay off the debt, I looked for advice on-line. I found a debt advice charity, but they had a 12-month waiting list; I don’t think my mum would have survived that long, given the pressure she was under. But the charity put me in touch with Riverside Money Advice; they made clear that it was a Christian charity, which I found reassuring.
When I called Riverside Money Advice, there was a waiting list of a couple of weeks, but that they would call me back. I was terrified – the wait to know whether there was going to be help or how it could improve things was a horrible time. I went by myself to the first appointment when it came through and explained the problem.
The adviser listened and explained that they were sure they could do something to help. I was overwhelmed and almost in tears; I just couldn’t believe that people would be so kind.
My mum came with me to the second appointment. It took longer, due to mum’s forgetfulness. But the advisers were very patient and gentle with my mum.
They went through everything step by step, outlined the options and explained what the consequences of each option would be.
A first step was to open a new bank account with a different bank, so that the pension could be paid in and used to pay bills, rather than being used by the bank to pay off debts. The Riverside advisers also helped us find ways to reduce her outgoings, including getting a much better deal on the mobile phone and applying for a free TV licence, since my mum is a pensioner. Eventually, we decided that my mother should apply for a Debt Relief Order through Riverside Money Advice. This meant that all her debts would be written off and she could start again from scratch. She would have a basic bank account with a cash card but without an overdraft facility or a credit card. That wasn’t a problem, since she only needed to pay bills and withdraw cash.
At first, my mum didn’t quite understand what the DRO meant. She was embarrassed and a bit scared by it.
But she was reassured by the Riverside Money Advice team and could see that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
After we obtained the DRO there were still a few calls from creditors, but they stopped completely once we showed them the paperwork. For a while, mum couldn’t believe that the calls had stopped; she kept expecting more. But she soon realised that they wouldn’t call back. She now sleeps at night and does not wake up feeling afraid. Despite her own health problems, she is in total control of her money and no-one else has access to it.
With help from the Riverside advisers, we created a folder with all the information she needs, so that she can manage her money. Overall, Riverside Money Advice exceeded all my expectations.
The advisers were not at all judgemental; instead, they offered patience and understanding in abundance. I always had a strong faith in God but I’ve been amazed that there are people who are so kind. It’s helped my son to reaffirm his faith; he’s seen that there are people at Riverside who do so many good things and he wants to be a part of it.
We were asked what difference the help has made, and I suppose that’s easily summed up by saying that on a scale of 1-5, we were at the bottom of the scale for being in control of our finances, being able to save for future bills, and overall well-being. Now, it’s a “5/5”.