I don’t usually pray but that night I did. Bailiffs were turning up at the door asking for money and looking for things to take away. The Council was sending letters demanding money and Housing Association was taking me to court and threatening to take away my flat. I couldn’t get on top of my debts and there seemed to be no way out.
“Please God, help me get out of this mess.”
My debt problems started when I couldn’t keep my hairdressing business going. The Job Centre had encouraged me to set up the business, after I qualified as a hairdresser and barber. They said that I’d get support to start the business: an advisor, a loan and an extra £60 per week when I came off benefits. So, I found some vacant premises and set up the shop. But the next month, the Job Centre wrote to say that the scheme had stopped operating, so I wouldn’t get any of the help promised. I was left to run the business by myself, even though I knew nothing about issues like tax.
Soon, I faced the choice between paying the bills for the shop or the bills at home. I stopped paying the rent on the house, as well as the gas, electricity and other bills and just hoped it would soon get better. My debts started to mount up.
“I would put letters in a drawer and hope it would all go away. But of course, it didn’t.”
I was in turmoil and stopped looking after myself or seeing friends. I felt depressed and asked the doctor for help.
I knew I needed help, and found Riverside Money Advice. They helped me get everything in order and put the letters in different folders. Even just doing that made me feel a lot better. They said “Don’t worry, keep calm. There’s a process to go through, but we can help you get free of debt”. They started to contact my creditors to get them to put things on hold, including the bailiffs and made sure that they didn’t come back.
They also came with me when the Housing Association took me to court.
Riverside also provided vouchers for me to use at the food bank in Cotteridge. The first time, I was really embarrassed to go there. I just thought “Is this what I’ve come to?” But the volunteers there were so lovely. They could see fear and shame on my face, but they made me feel so comfortable. The food was only meant to cover three days, but we made it last much longer. It was such a help.
With help from Riverside, we gradually reduced my debts to the point where I could apply for a Debt Relief Order. RMA helped me with the application and it was accepted. My debts were gone! But the help from Riverside did not stop there. We set up separate bank accounts: one for my bills and weekly shopping and another one for saving money or for emergencies, like when I lost my driving licence and had to pay £20 for new one. They also helped me draw up a budget and arrange direct debits. Now all my bills get paid first and I live off whatever is left. It’s not all easy: I’ve overspent a couple of times but I’m learning not to spend money just because I have it.
I’ve also been given new happiness and a peace inside that I didn’t have before. When I meet people with struggles, I tell them about what has happened to me, it’s been amazing.