Updated: May 24
39-year-old events professional Grayson* had been hoping to find work after a period spent in prison, and to eventually move out from living with his mother and into a place of his own.
But shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, his mother passed away – and Grayson watched as his industry ground to a standstill.
Above: Grayson talks about his experience of overcoming debt
Universal Credit covered Grayson’s day-to-day living expenses, but this was with the exception of his rent – and the arrears began to mount up.
Family circumstances were also to result in Grayson becoming responsible for his mother’s utility and council tax accounts. This took place approximately six months after her passing – by which point the accounts had fallen into arrears of about £3,700 in total.
Even at the best of times, Grayson admits that receiving bills makes him feel anxious. But the stress of this new situation caused him insomnia, and at one point he was even unable to eat. In late 2020, a member of staff at his local council tax office suggested he contact Money A+E.
At his first telephone appointment, Grayson ran through all the debts and bills, as well as his personal circumstances with his new Money Coach, Rosie. Money Coaches undertake this first step with all new clients at Money A+E, so they can build up a picture of their situation that is truly holistic and goes beyond just finances.
Rosie went on to inform Grayson that he was in fact not liable to pay the debts in his mother’s name. In a personalised financial plan, she included guidance on how to apply for the debts to be written off.
Grayson quickly took action, and credits this to the ‘step forward that [Rosie] gave me’. As well as the accounts now being debt-free and transferred to his own name, at Rosie’s suggestion he also applied for a council tax reduction that has taken his bill down from £1,458 to just over £1,000/year.
Because of his anxiety over bills, Grayson had intended to use a prepayment meter for his gas and electricity. But Rosie identified that he could save by using a direct debit account, and he is now spending £260/quarter and finding this a lot more manageable.
Together they also addressed the crucial challenge of covering Grayson’s rent. Once he had registered his housing details with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), an additional ‘housing element’ was added to Grayson’s Universal Credit account. He also received a £8,000 back payment, allowing him to clear his rent arrears.
With a return to normality in sight, Grayson cannot wait to get back to work. Right now he is feeling calm about his finances. Managing his new budget is challenging at times, but he is making sure that there is always money in the bank ready for when the bills come in.
He recommends the advice process to others, and says that ‘it’ll take away a lot of stress, a lot of worries. If you’re unsure what to do, they [Money in the Community]’re the people to point you in the right direction.’
*Name has been changed
Service funded by the British Gas Energy Trust
Name: Grayson* Age: 39 Occupation: Events industry professional Location: London Lives with: Alone; previously with his mother Employment status: unemployed during Coronavirus lockdowns
Financial gains included: £8,000 Universal Credit housing back payment; approx. £400 reduction in Council Tax; energy savings; approx. £3,400 debt in his mother's name written off Support received from Money A+E included: Personalised financial plan; housing benefits support; energy switching advice
Figures are correct at time of writing and may be approximate