I had a lovely home in the village of Balsall Common, family, everything….and then in the blink of an eye my world turned upside down. I went to prison and served two and a half years. I lost everything and, it seemed, everyone.
A support worker helped me access help from Riverside Money Advice. To start with, the only thing I needed help with was a debt with Vodaphone. I had been assaulted by a neighbour and I was told that I needed photographic evidence. I therefore went to a phone shop to get a phone with a camera. Slightly unprepared for the selling-experience, I came out with a two-year contract and a tablet that I never opened. In that encounter, my Sky contract was cancelled and also taken over. I was paying for all sorts of things that I didn’t need and couldn’t afford. Things got out of hand and the amount owing grew to over £900. Riverside Money Advice contacted the Ombudsman, and as a result of that work, the debt was cancelled.
When I came out of the first session with RMA it was like an invisible bag of rocks had just been taken off me. All that weight had gone.
During the sessions with RMA, I realised that there was more about the way I handled money that could be helped and improved. As we talked through my finances, I learnt about the benefit of paying gas and electric by direct debit rather than having a meter – which costs you more.
I had been waiting to move for four years, and the opportunity finally came. I thought everything was going okay and I liked the new place I was in, but the paperwork behind the scenes for council tax did not go smoothly. I suddenly received a demand for Council Tax arising from a “void tenancy”. I was summoned to court and the amount owed started increasing. Although the transfer of housing support had been dealt with as part of Universal Credit, there had been no indication that council tax wasn’t also being sorted.
Around the same time, I applied for Personal Independence Payments (PIP)because I had been on DLA before with a mobility component. I was declined. I was shocked at the sudden gap between support being withdrawn, and the reality of my wait for a complete hip operation. I was also dealing with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
I was not faking my symptoms and couldn’t understand what had gone wrong.
It was at this time that Riverside’s support really excelled. While I was in hospital, they obtained an extension on the time limit for the PIP appeal from the DWP. That time is so fuzzy because of how ill I was. After discharge, I had a follow-up appointment with Riverside. I consider that adviser nothing less than an undercover angel. The best thing for me about Riverside Money Advice is that they didn’t just signpost me somewhere else.
Previously I had been bouncing between all sorts of places, just being given the details of another place to try after a brief bit of sympathy and advice.
RMA was engaging, dynamic and knew the details that made a difference. I knew I was in safe hands.
My journey to getting my money sorted out was above and beyond what I expected. Running up debt is serious. When I was living in Balsall Common there were regular suicides caused by debt. On the outside it can look like an affluent area, but I think it’s credit cards that are getting people by. I know someone who won’t open her mail because every letter is a demand for money.
I took the advice I was given, and addressed my spending issues. I opened two bank accounts, one for bills, one for weekly spend. When I moved to my new place, I wanted everything to be just right.
I’ve learnt to make better first decisions and save up for things I know I need, rather than spend money I don’t have – which always ends up costing me more.
RMA has been part of this journey. If you’re in a similar situation, contact them. There is a waiting list because so many people want to see them. You won’t regret it. You won’t be signposted – they’ll get the mess sorted out and help you take back control.
You will walk out feeling so relieved knowing that something is finally happening to get things sorted – help really is to hand.