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"I think there is a side of being in debt that people don’t realise."

Updated: Jul 13, 2022




Tracie came to the Money A+E Advice service for support when she was losing sleep over rent arrears. Here is her story.

‘Last April my daughter decided to move out. I was living in a house in Lewisham, and Universal Credit had already taken away £75 of my money, because of bedroom tax.


When she moved out, they took away another £75. I did have three bedrooms and I’d lived there for 30 years; when my daughter decided that she wanted to move out, she was 28, she wasn’t a child.


I got in touch with my housing association, and they said that they would move me into a one-bedroom [property]. I wanted to stay in the area so I still had my friends and my support network around me, but there just wasn’t anywhere.


It took from the April ‘til the October for them to move me, and all that time I was having £150 deducted from my [Universal Credit housing allowance] each month. So I got into quite a bit of arrears with my rent.


"My gas bills, my electric bills and everything were getting a little bit behind each month. I didn’t go out at all during that time."

I was having to borrow money off of my son. And my gas bills, my electric bills and everything were getting a little bit behind each month.


I didn’t go out at all during that time. That’s why the depression kicked in, and then got even worse. It’s why they’ve actually said now, that I am unfit for work.


I’m dealing with it, but it’s taken a long time to get back to normal. I wasn’t going to sleep and when I did, I kept having not very nice dreams about there being bailiffs on my doorstep.


 

Just before I moved, someone told me about Money A+E. They said to me: go to them, and ask them if they’ll help you.


Paul [Money Coach] definitely went above and beyond for me. Every time I phoned and texted him, he texted back almost immediately.


He worked out how much to pay back each month on my rent, and he talked to the housing association and got me down to the minimum [monthly repayment] that they would take.


"[Receiving money advice] made a lot of difference. Paul got me to the stage where I knew that no-one was going to take away my home."

He also helped me with getting [deductions] off my Universal Credit lowered. I do owe [the DWP] money from a long time ago, but if I’m honest, I don’t know what that’s for. I know that I owe them the money, but about 5 years ago, I had a brain tumour and I have very little or no memory.


Now, I don’t actually remember giving birth to my children. I know they’re my children and I love them dearly, but I have no memory of their childhood or of giving birth to them or anything. Everything is missing there.


Before the tumour I worked for a hardware store in Catford, I was on tills. Now, everything has to be done with notes, I have to put sticky notes everywhere. And if I’m cooking, I have to use a timer, otherwise I’ll set the place alight!


But that’s fine, I’m learning to live with that.


 

Now, I live in a one-bedroom bungalow in Bexley. My friends and family are back in Lewisham, or in other parts of London.


I think there is a side of being in debt that people don’t realise. They understand that you’ve got no money – but it’s what that leads to. For me, it means that I can’t afford to do nothing, I can’t afford to go nowhere. So then I stay in, and then I get worse. It makes me insecure. And that is the problem I think as well: what it does to your mental health.


"I think there is a side of being in debt that people don’t realise. They understand that you’ve got no money – but it’s what that leads to."

[Receiving money advice] made a lot of difference. Paul got me to the stage where I knew that no-one was going to take away my home, and where I can put my electric on and not stay awake all night worrying about it.


He couldn’t make the bills go away, and I wasn’t asking him to do that. But he gave me that ability to sleep of a night knowing that it is sorted.


I still get letters, saying that I’m in arrears with the rent – but they come out automatically from the housing association, and I’m paying it off, so I don’t worry about it too much.


That’s why I don’t mind sharing my story: because Paul gave me that peace of mind that I needed.’


Service funded by the British Gas Energy Trust




 

Name: Tracie

Location: Bexley, London

Age: Late 50s

Lives with: Alone

Occupation: Former retail worker

Advice included support with:

Restructuring Tracie’s rent repayments, and liaising with her housing association to reduce these as much as possible (to £15/month approx.).


Making applications for the Warm Home Discount (energy bills), and Council Tax Reduction - both of which were successful.


Reducing deductions from Tracie’s monthly Universal Credit allowance from £50 to £1/month. These are for a previous Housing Benefit overpayment.


Applying to the Thames Water ‘WaterHelp’ scheme to reduce water bills by 50%.


Applying for Personal Independence Payment (PIP); application result pending.



Figures are correct at time of writing and may be approximate

All images used are stock photos



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