Amy was the guarantor for a family member’s loan and when the debtor defaulted she was left with a huge sum to pay. Caring fulltime for her aunt and claiming a carer’s allowance, she simply could not pay the loan back.
She sought a Debt Relief Order, but when her aunt then passed away, her mental health worsened and she became unable to work. She then began to claim Universal Credit.
Amy said: “My aunt passed away in 2018 so I had to move as I couldn’t afford to stay in our family’s three-bedroom home due to the ‘bedroom tax’. I couldn’t make ends meet on Universal Credit.”
Even though they moved to a cheaper location, Amy and her partner struggled financially. She said: “My move cost a lot of money. I had to hire a moving man, pay the bond for the place - it had a knock-on effect after that. The cupboards were bare and we got desperate.”
Amy needed money quickly to ensure she could pay her bills as she’d also been hit by needing to repay the five-week advance loan she received before her Universal Credit payments began. Despairing and unable to obtain credit from conventional secure lenders, she turned to a loan shark.
Although she had received support on a number of occasions from a local emergency food-bank, she reached her maximum number of parcels and became ineligible for further assistance. She was then directed to The Salvation Army.
Amy admits: “The Salvation Army has made a massive difference in our lives – they have basically kept us alive with food, help, advice and friendship.
“I know I’m getting fed every week and the volunteers have come up with other ways to help me and to take the weight off a bit. Even if they can’t offer anything, they give advice and just help me to feel human every time someone smiles and asks how we are.”
Amy explains that despite the support she finds it hard not being able to share her struggles with friends. She said: “I went to a nice school – the people I know are wives or husbands, have jobs and nice houses. There’s a stigma in not being able to pay my bills and none of my friends know I’ve got loan sharks to repay. I try to keep it private.
“I think it’s more about being so poor you have to go to places for free food – there’s more of a stigma with that. I wouldn’t tell any of my friends I get food from churches. People can be judgmental.”
Free practical advice, working alongside people to help them stay out of debt
Providing the basics and supporting people on a path to dignity and not to dependence
In the aftermath of the pandemic we are concerned that thousands of families will fall into poverty and debt.
No matter how tough the challenges are that people face the Salvation Army is always there to offer a helping hand.