A woman who previously felt “suicidal” with the stress of being in out of control debts has spoken about how she has transformed her life to become more financially stable.
Allison, 57, owed £6,000 at her lowest point three years ago, after she got into debt because she unable to work through illness.
She said: “I got into debt when my health became bad. I have fibromyalgia, ME (Myalgic encephalomyelitis) and have had an operation on my back.
“I couldn’t work anymore. A lot of companies were very unsympathetic, and caused me added stress.”
She was also newly divorced and living alone when she got into debt, and her situation affected her mental health.
She said: “I struggled with the knowledge that I had so much debt, and was unable to work to improve the situation. I felt hopeless. I was suicidal. I didn’t know where to turn.”
Fortunately, she did reach out for help from her GP and explained her situation. She was given counselling which helped her realise it wasn’t her fault she was ill.
She also phoned up her debtors to come to an agreement about how she could manage the repayments.
She said: “I found that not ignoring the problem is better than burying your head in the sand. Some companies are better than others, but I found as a general rule, most responded well to honesty and an explanation of the reasons that you are having difficulties.
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“As long as they know that the problem is that you can’t pay, as opposed to you just not wanting to pay, then they are quite reasonable and helpful.”
She made a list of her income and outgoings, so she could start setting money aside to pay off the debt.
Allison stuck to her budget and avoided any luxury items in her efforts to repay the debt. She said: “I have arranged for all of my direct debits to come out of my account within a few days of my Universal Credit being paid in. The little bit left, I take out of the bank to use for food shopping.
“I have ESA paid into my account fortnightly, this I transfer straight to my Housing Association for my rent.”
She also gets a PIP payment every four weeks which she has been using to clear her debts.
She also regularly shops in charity shops in her efforts to keep her costs down. Her current debt with Lowell is at just over £5,500.
She was previously making repayments but after a change in her circumstances, she is having a 90-day breathing space where she can get support, while Lowell is assessing her situation.
People on certain means-tested benefits, such as Universal Credit, are receiving a £900 cost of living payment this financial year.
The payment is going out in three instalments, with the first payment of £301 paid in recent weeks.
The second instalment of £300 is going out in autumn this year while the third amount of £299 will go out in spring 2024.
People on certain disability benefits are also going to get a £150 cost of living payment, which will go out next month.
Most of the payments will go out in a two-week window, from June 20 to July 4. A small number will go out later to those who were still awaiting confirmation of their eligibility or entitlement to a qualifying disability benefit on April 1.
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For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or visit a local Samaritans branch.
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