I Found Hope 2018-01-09T13:15:43+00:00

I Found Hope

Signs of Hope makes a huge difference as individuals are equipped and empowered to take control of their finances and begin to live lives full of hope. Our work is confidential, however these clients willingly share their story in order to offer encouragement that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“Could I possibly let my kids down any more than this?”

If you met Corina today you would see a determined and confident woman who is making exciting progress to regaining control of her life, to making her kids proud of her. But it hasn’t always been that way.

“Racking up debts through comfort spending during bouts of anxiety and depression was not the worst. Having my kids taken away and placed in foster care was absolutely a low point, as was acting out my suicidal thoughts.”

Support from some key people and organisations, that definitely includes Inspire Community Training & Development CIC have helped and encouraged and Corina in her recovery. A budgeting course with Signs of Hope made a real impact too.

In February 2016, Corina attended a Signs of Hope budgeting course. The course came at the right time for her. In the same month she decided to quit smoking. She was ready to take more steps to regain control of her life and finances.

Three messages in particular really hit home during this course:
*  “You said that we could contact the companies I owe money to and negotiate a realistic repayment amount that was affordable for my budget”. Corina was fearful that her creditors would demand payments at a level that they wanted. The course gave her confidence to make calls to all those that she was in debt to, and today she has cleared all but two. “Sorting out my debts means that when I do start paid work, I will keep all I earn to meet my own living costs.”
*  “Quitting smoking meant I was not spending £15-20 per week on tobacco. I decided to save it for something nice.” At first she thought about a holiday, or some nice clothes. After a while Corina found a realistic goal: to be able to drive and visit friends and relatives who live further away, so she paid for a provisional driving licence and has been taking driving lessons. Corina passed her driving test in the Autumn and she has already saved up enough to buy her first car.
*  “You showed us how to manage our bills by using the jam jar approach. I already do this by using envelopes. I was really encouraged that I was doing something right”.

And now?
Today, Corina helps run a craft group and this October she starts a Level 3 Award in Adult Education with a view to a career in teaching. It will be important to be able to drive when she is ready to take up a new employed role. She has regular and frequent contact with her children. “The decisions I made from coming on the budgeting course have led to me getting back in control of my finances, and believing I can earn a living … and make my kids proud of me.”

“If you get a chance, do go on the course. It will put things clearer in your head. It’s really eye-opening.”

Not all debt advisers are the same

Dreading Pay Day Mrs R used to dread payday. Payday would not mean a change from beans on toast or fish finger sandwiches; it would simply be a time to repay Payday Loans, make minimum credit card payments and decide which of the other bills to favour, before settling in to a lonely pattern of anxiously worrying about her debt. As Mrs R says, “I was juggling my money and loans, borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, and feeling extremely anxious”.

Running out of options
A few years ago Mrs R’s income from part time working and welfare benefits reduced but she couldn’t reduce her outgoings as easily. Her problems spiralled as she drew from her credit cards to meet daily living expenses. “After max-ing out on credit cards, I used payday loans but these only made it worse in the long run.” The worry of many bills and debts kept Mrs R awake at night. “It was the horriblest feeling, with thoughts running through my head when I was trying to sleep”.

Priority debts
One of Mrs R’s debts was to her landlord. She has previously been to court for council tax arrears and agreed to repay over several years, and had several threats of eviction for rent arrears.
The breakthrough for Mrs R started when she spoke to the council about her rent arrears. During the conversation, looking to find out what needs to happen to help Mrs R back on her feet, the council recommended that she speak to Tracy.

Not all the same
Mrs R was willing to go but thought that they were unlikely to be able to her. She felt that this would be like other advice agencies that would leave her feeling like I’ve been judged and told off? However, from the very first meeting, Mrs R felt encouraged. The way Tracy took time to explaining as she went along was hugely reassuring. She went home and told her sister, “I think I’ve found someone who can help me.”

The solution was to opt for bankruptcy. Mrs R was initially fearful, not knowing much about it, and thinking she couldn’t afford it. Tracy was able to reassure Mrs R throughout, even accompanying Mrs R to the court hearing.

And now
“My elderly mother lives in Jamaica and for many years I assumed I would never be able to afford to see her again even if she became ill. Now I have received my first pay slip since bankruptcy and for the first time in ages I know I have enough left over to meet my living costs. Next month I plan to start saving a little, and hopefully one day visit my mother again. I feel like I have a brighter future.”

“Now I realise that I’m not the only one going through these difficulties, and strongly recommend anyone identifying with my story to speak out, ask for help, and better still get help from Tracy.”

Everyone else seems to have it all …

“We chose to live the life we wanted, rather than the life our finances could afford.”  This was how Noah and Sophia chose to cope with life without much money, as Noah drifted in and out of work.  “Everyone else seemed to have it all, so why not us too?”

Everyone has problems
There were times as Noah lost another job or couldn’t get out of bed when Sophia thought he was lazy.  It was some time before they found that Noah had a brain tumour, and that it has been with him since birth, growing larger and eventually affecting his vision, balance and mood swings.

Through tough times they spent money to please themselves.  Much of their spending was on their children, as many of us like to do, spending large at Christmas.  The problem was the infrequent work and income to pay for it all. And they were borrowing more and more to keep going.

Living with a life-threatening illness and not enough income to live any kind of life, Noah and Sophia spent and borrowed without a care.  We asked Noah and Sophia whether they would have done anything differently if they knew how their story would end.  Noah said “no, he was not in a place in his mind to make strong changes”.  Sophia said, that she would have made different choices.

Their finances were only going in one direction while they remained in denial.

Reaching rock bottom: time to finally ask for help

“Having the bailiffs at the door insisting they take some furniture in payment for a court fine for non-payment of our TV licence was the wake-up call.  I really didn’t want to lose our settee.”

This was not the first time the court bailiffs had visited for unpaid bills.  Around this same time Noah had taken 2-weeks off work but not notified the authorities soon enough, causing complications with his housing benefit.  For Noah and Sophia, this was rock bottom.  Noah said, “We can’t carry on like this.  We’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul for so long, and there is no way out.  We need help.”

Debts had grown one small loan at a time, borrowing from the Provi, and from Brighthouse, and others.  It was easy to borrow, and the repayments, £3pw for this one, £4pw for the next were not big, but they became too much to keep on top of.  They started to pay a bit less on the rent, water and council tax, and of course skipped the TV licence.  We didn’t have any concern about how we were going to repay the loans.

Noah and Sophia are really grateful to Diana, their housing officer, for recommending they speak to Tracy at Signs of Hope for professional debt advice.  Noah says he feels that doorstep lenders and those that make credit too easy to obtain take advantage of people who feel they have nowhere else to turn.

What’s it like to get advice?

“I don’t want other people to know our business” was how Sophia responded when it was suggested that they speak to Signs of Hope for debt advice.  Even though Noah felt they had reached rock bottom with the state of their finances, Sophia still felt a bit uneasy taking this first essential step to financial recovery.

However as Noah says, “we were living in a fool’s paradise”, kidding themselves that something would come along to change this situation without having to face up to things themselves. They had reached rock bottom. An over-payment of housing benefit needed to be paid back.  Court bailiffs were knocking on their door demanding payment for overdue bills.  Repayment for easy credit borrowing was crippling their finances so they were skipping council tax and TV licence payments.  There were no other options left.  They needed help, but didn’t know where to turn.

For Noah and Sophia, the solution was to file for bankruptcy.  By the time they asked for help all the softer options were no longer available.  But what was it like, getting debt advice?

“Tracy was brilliant.  She related to us and to our situation.  She didn’t judge us.  She told it straight so we knew what our choices were and what this would mean to us.  This gave us the kick up the backside, to face up to the reality of our situation.  Tracy gave us confidence that we were in safe hands and that it wasn’t all doom and gloom.”

And now …
After regaining control of their finances following bankruptcy, Noah and Sophia are paying their bills on time, keeping on top of their rent, council tax and water bills and paying their TV licence regularly without resorting to easy borrowing.  They are saving for a holiday, which for them will be the final proof that they have turned the corner.

“Now,” Sophia says, “I feel less burdened, in all parts of our life.”  And Noah recommends, “Don’t delay, ask for help as soon as you feel things are running out of control.”

In Maisie’s words, I don’t want to be judged”

As a child I was daddy’s little girl. We would go shopping and come back with treats for me. I was spoilt, in a nice way, the way you want to do for your own kids.  A little while ago I had lots of friends; we would meet often and were one big sociable family. I was a confident woman who felt secure and important.

Everything got on top of me
Even during the better times, money was not going well – no one told us how to use money, how to budget. But I was surviving, just – ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, always hopeful that my situation would turn around for the better. And then I lost my job.

Everything got on top of me, not just because of one thing, not just because I lost my job although that didn’t help, it was just the whole situation. I was already behind with rent, council tax and utility bills, and I was struggling with anxiety and depression. I was being threatened with eviction.

Losing my job meant more than just no income. At the same time I lost:

  • my independence
  • hope of a recovery – no job, no money, no possibility of sorting my finances out
  • my identity and sense of worth

I was worried that I would end up sofa surfing and that my young kids would be put into care. To be honest, not all my choices at this stage were great – I chose weed as a way to escape reality; I used payday lenders and went to Cash Converters to raise some money to get by. These were easier options than asking for help from my family as I thought they would judge me and ask questions like, ‘what’ … and ‘why’ …?

  • Looking back it was too easy to borrow from these lenders, and it only made things worse.
  • Now I’m on top of things, my sister tells me I am not so gloomy and not calling all the time asking for help to buy absolute basics like bread and milk for the kids.
Deciding to ask for help
If this was my rock bottom, I still didn’t know where to go for help, and I didn’t want to talk to a stranger about my money. I didn’t want to talk to someone that knew my family or me. I felt shameful, lost, and stuck in a bad place with no hope. I didn’t blame anyone else, but I felt that I couldn’t put it right on my own.

When my housing officer asked if I would like her to refer me to an adviser she trusts, I was ready to accept, but still very, very anxious. What was I afraid of?

  • Seeing exactly how much I owed, how much trouble I was in
  • I had a fear of facing reality
  • I was scared of what happens next, when I reality is laid out in front of me

The first step to attend this first appointment meeting was HUGE, but the alternative was to sink further down and I didn’t want that. I decided that, “It’s my time, I’ve got to do this.”

What was it like, getting advice?
My adviser Tracy put me at ease right from the start. She showed understanding; she was motherly; she was perfect for me at that fragile and anxious time. I am grateful to my housing officer for referring me to Tracy at Signs of Hope.

What about my fears?
Well, I thought I owed about £5,000 and it turned out to be over £12,000. I was advised that a Debt Relief Order was my best option. But Tracy reassured me throughout, and kept me going when I had wobbles in confidence. I couldn’t have done it alone, but I did it with help. It wasn’t as bad as I had imagined.

And now
The weight is lifted from me now. It’s been daunting but I’ve done it. I now have hope back in my life. I am back in control of my money. With careful budgeting, I am paying my bills on time and even have a little left over each fortnight. I can even afford the £4 to go swimming with my kids each week.

If someone reading this thinks this is a bit like their life …
You asked me what I would say to myself, if I could go back in time. Firstly, I would punch myself in the head and say, “don’t be such a silly women”. I would say to anyone, burying your head in the sand doesn’t work; don’t let shame stop you asking for help because there ARE good ways out of your fix. Tracy has shown me a way to make a fresh start to a better life for my family and me.