“Life was quite difficult, with a number of debts playing with my head. I sought help from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and got some progress and everything was fine for a while. But then I lost some money and fell behind with the arrangements that had been put in place. I was summoned for a health review, which determined that I was fit to work (although I disagreed) and that triggered a stop to my benefit payments. I also got into trouble with a catalogue and a loan with Provident. My mum’s next door neighbour recommended Riverside Money Advice as she had received help and told me to call.
In 1999 I was diagnosed with some deformed discs in my back which gave me constant pain and made any form of sitting or carrying impossible. I could cycle, which was fine because I like doing that, and I’m really interested in bikes. I lost my job at a cycle shop which was a real blow. I couldn’t find anything similar, and the ongoing chronic back problem effectively prevented me from doing anything else that I could think of or had skills for.
The advisers I met with were so good and helpful, much more than I expected. I think I thought it would be just like the CAB, but there was far more connection with everything that was troubling me.
I learnt loads – I started to learn to be confident with money and started paying bills on time. My listening has got better and I think part of me just needed a kick up the backside. I don’t always remember things and can’t process things easily. When we first started, I was given a voucher to use a local foodbank. I felt really embarrassed to go, but the experience was better than I feared and they were helpful and kind.
After I sought help from Riverside to sort out the outstanding debts, I had an orthopaedic scan which completely changed the diagnosis – there was apparently no deformed discs and I was told it was just a muscular problem. But that outcome stopped my Employment Support Allowance and I was transferred to the new Universal Credit. An error in that shift stopped my housing benefit and suddenly I was receiving notice of potential eviction from my property by Birmingham City Council.
As much as the Money Advice team were helping, things just seemed to be unravelling more. They helped get things sorted out and interpreted what various bits of paper were saying and what needed to be done. I’ve got the housing support re-instated, and am waiting for news as to whether the gap in support will also be back-filled. Through the job centre, I’m now on a training course and seem to be doing better than I thought and am hopeful that I’m on my way to employment.
I now have lots more confidence and new friends. The team so helped me I wanted to help others, so I have been volunteering for 6 months in the premises, learning new skills, helping out where I can, and working alongside the Facilities Manager.
I feel like I’ve gained a whole new family and made friends. Working in such a relaxed and understanding atmosphere has helped me gain confidence, and the practical work has increased my fitness and capacity to aim for more.
I don’t go to church, but this journey has opened my faith up again. It is just like I was meant to be here. One of the team told me that he had prayed for a client who would be able to help around the building, so I think that’s a prayer answered!
If you are reading this and have got money problems and questions, head straight to Riverside Money Advice. My life will not be the same again.”