Having someone by your side

Two people sitting together
Linda* (former CAP client), who is now debt free, shares her experience of debt and the value she found in face-to-face debt advice. 

I tried my best at school and got a good job. I was a nurse, and I loved the job that I did. But I have had a brain injury and can be quite disorganised, it’s like a filing cabinet and all things are flung out. So over the years, I’ve had to give up work, and I found myself with lots of bills mounting up and not managing them very well. I didn’t even want to look at my credit card, but it was nearly £20,000 in debt.

The debt had weighed on me before getting debt advice through Christians Against Poverty (CAP). The money worries made me anxious, and because of this, I developed symptoms like a right-sided stroke down the side. The anxiety made my memory balance worse, and I was falling more.

I tried working with another debt advice provider, but I found it difficult to work with them because of my disability. I struggled with sending in the paperwork and kept getting phone calls saying I hadn’t sent things in. Because of my memory issues, I thought I had sent the paperwork in. I was with them for about two years, and all the calls and stress were making my mental health worse. I wasn’t sleeping, my family was asking what was wrong but I hadn’t told them anything. I just kept it to myself.

One day I was at a brain injury support group and my brain injury nurse asked if I was okay, as she could tell I was stressed. When I confided in her about my debt situation, she gave me a big hug and she said Oh, why didn’t you tell me this before?’ She was so sweet and lovely about it. She then told me about CAP and that was how I ended up hearing about their debt advice service. After a phone call, a local CAP Debt Coach came for a home visit with me, and I just thought, How different is this?’

It was so nice to talk to someone face to face. It’s more personal, it’s more one to one – I just felt more at ease. There wasn’t any sort of judgement and no question was a silly question. I found that it’s so much easier to have somebody just there and being able to ask whatever I wanted to ask, to give me the information and to break it down into easier to understand information. I think there is huge value in in-person debt advice; I found the more personal service really helpful, especially for people like me with a disability.

My physical and mental health, and everything else, is changing for the better now.

Through in-person debt advice and journeying to become debt free, I can now look to the future. I am limited in my physical ability, and I might forget things, but I still want to do things to help people.

I have always wanted to help people, which is why I went into nursing. When I did my training I did a placement on a stroke ward and I remember thinking I couldn’t imagine how they must feel, and how difficult it must be for them. But now I’ve had the effects of a stroke, I know what it’s like: the confusion that it brings, the sporadic spending, and the chaotic and disorganised state of mind, because I have had these experiences too.

Going forward, I want to take the greater understanding and empathy I can now provide and do a learning course to do with psychology, so I can continue to help people.

My message to the sector:

  • I have found real value in in-person community-based debt advice. Please do what you can to enable others to access this too going forward.

  • I found out about CAP from my brain injury nurse. Nurses and Occupational Therapists work so hard, they work past their hours and help people like me in so many ways. It would be great if there was more provision of benefit advice and other support in communities to relieve the pressure on healthcare staff from having to fill this void.

*Name has been changed on request.