'I locked myself in the house' – James's story

James shares his personal experience of debt, and the journey out of it 

I’d been working as a machine operator for a mailing company for seven years, but during the pandemic I was laid off. As an agency worker, I wasn’t entitled to any financial support when I lost my job, so everything spiralled out of control. I had debts that were manageable up until then. I was in a situation where I could never get myself in front – I was robbing Peter to pay Paul. 

I was always on edge’

Universal Credit was my only income. I was relying on it to pay my rent, my bills, to buy food. However, I had several County Court Judgments and debts being deducted from my payments. I thought they had to leave you with enough to live on, but I was losing half of my benefits every month. It wasn’t enough to cover my rent and I thought I was going to lose my house. My mum was paying for me to have internet so that I could still search for work.

Bailiffs would come at least once a week. I spoke to them on the doorstep but I didn’t let them in without a court order. I was always on edge, worrying that they would eventually come with a court order. I started sleeping on the couch downstairs just in case.

I locked myself away in the house. I would go to the job centre, and I’d go to my mum’s for tea as I couldn’t afford food or heating. Other than that, I didn’t go anywhere for 18 months. Everything was getting on top of me. It was ridiculous. I was barely surviving.

Meeting CAP

I was introduced to CAP through the social justice team at Universal Credit. I was put in touch with Louise from the Debt Centre near where I lived.

CAP was able to stop the bailiffs coming within the first 24 hours. It lifted my whole life straight away. I was no longer worrying about who was going to knock on the door.

Louise came to visit me at home with a Befriender volunteer and we went through all the paperwork together. Louise stood by me. If I had any questions, I could ring her. She was an absolute superstar. She came at Christmas and dropped off a Christmas hamper with lovely things like biscuits and bits and bobs to lift me up.

Everything has all happened at once’

My Debt Relief Order came through about four months after I started working with CAP. Since then I’ve had letters to say I no longer owe anything! Everything was cleared. It was so easy to sort everything. And then I got a job and I’ve been at work five days a week since! Getting things sorted with my finances gave me the self-confidence boost to get back into work.

I also stopped shutting myself away. I was out and about one day and I bumped into an old friend who I’d known for years. She’s now my girlfriend – and we’re getting married in August! Everything has all happened at once!

Without CAP’s help I’d have still been locked in the house, sleeping on my couch and not doing much with myself each day – it was pure depression all the time. Now I know who to call if I’m struggling, I’m working and I’m getting married. I couldn’t raise a higher flag for CAP.

James’s story is featured in our 2023 report Taking on UK poverty, which highlights the reality of debt and poverty in our country right now. Read it now to see the latest data and insights on the impact and solutions to the growing challenge of UK poverty.

Read the report now