The coronavirus crisis has impacted everyone and for many there have been sudden, unexpected implications. At the time of writing this article our trained advisers are working from home and are still available to give free advice, whoever you are and whatever your problem. You can contact us by phone or by e-mail. Your local contact details can be found at the end of this article, and the local website will have details about re-opening when we get there. You can also find a wealth of information on the Citizens Advice National website www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Although many of those who have contacted us recently have sought help with issues directly related to coronavirus, we are still here to help with those problems which are not related, or which might emerge as lockdown eases and emergency measures are removed or loans have to be repaid. For instance, for many of us debt either already is, or will become an issue.
Dealing with debt, Michael’s Story
The key to dealing with debt, as with most problems, is to find out your options and seek a resolution as soon as possible, as Michael found.
Michael* was retired. He and his wife had a little money put by, but they had given most of it to their son so that he could afford the deposit for his first home. Their son and his wife had assured them that they would help his parents out if they should ever need the money. Michael’s wife still worked, and he had got a part time job to keep him occupied when he retired, so they were sure that they would be able to manage and probably build up some savings again.
But, unexpectedly, Michael’s wife died soon afterwards. Michael used his credit card to pay the funeral expenses, but he was sure that he would be able to pay off the excess quickly from his own earnings.
Then along came coronavirus and Michael lost his job, leaving him without any income other than his state retirement pension. His son was also struggling and in no position to be able to help his father as he had promised.
At home alone during lockdown, Michael was getting more and more depressed. He owned his own home, but there was always maintenance work to be paid for and now he had the credit card bill to pay. He no longer had his wife to discuss things with and he was really missing seeing his grandchildren, something which always cheered him up.
A magazine came through the door and Michael read that although the offices were closed, you could still get advice from Citizens Advice by ringing or e-mailing. He wasn’t too good with e-mail, but he could certainly give them a ring.
Michael spoke to an adviser who asked him about his circumstances and the outstanding debts that he had. She offered Michael a benefit check as a first step and explained that she could also help him to check if he could get a better deal on his utility bills. In the longer term, if he did not get another part time job, he might consider other options, such as taking in a lodger, as he had a spare bedroom.
Michael was very relieved after speaking to the adviser, who suggested he rang back again when he had paperwork relating to his utility bills to hand.
*Not his real name – to preserve confidentiality
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