Bev came to PACE Advice with some debt issues she was struggling to manage after being made redundant. Hear her story of how she got help, get involved and now helps others face their debt problems.
Jobless and struggling to make ends meet
I was made redundant in 2010 and found I couldn't get work again. As I live alone, with my children now living independently it has always been hard for me to manage financially, with a mortgage to pay and an old car, which I felt I should hang on to as I could get more job opportunities. After the first year any redundancy money had been spent, the house and car were falling into disrepair, gas and electric bills were hard to pay each time and opportunities for work seemed to just be out of reach.
I was getting very depressed and anxious, unable to pay my mortgage and utility bills and really struggling to find money for basics, even food. An adviser at the Job Centre first mentioned using the PACE Advice service. He said it had been really helpful to him and I was able to go straight to their office, which was on Granby Street back then (new premises here) where I was given an appointment for that same week.
Facing the fear together
I was made very welcome and the adviser just accepted a whole bag of post and we opened it together. All I needed was a bit of encouragement and some help to communicate with utility companies. I felt that the people at PACE were on my side and could help me face my fear of debt. They supplied food parcels for me in that early period and whenever I needed anything I knew I would be able to ask.
I chose to sell my house, which had no equity, but the move left me able to claim a little more benefit help to pay rented accommodation costs. I was still out of work and my car was too old to repair so my chances of working as I approach 60 seemed slim. I was getting very depressed and anxious about the future and started to struggle to get out of the house and talk to people, going back to old habits of unopened post and uncharged mobile. I went back to the PACE Advice office and was able to arrange some counselling sessions, which were excellent and I realised that anxiety was common with many people in my situation struggling on a very low income. It was the councillor who suggested I volunteer at PACE Advice...
Confidence building volunteering
I began coming two or three days a week to work on reception, answering phones and putting together food parcels. It was really good to get out and meet people every day and I was made very welcome in the office. The process of meeting people who came to the advice office was enormously helpful and when talking to them I found many experience the same difficulties with stress and anxiety because of their own financial situations. It was useful for me to be able to empathise with the clients like this and clearly there is a real need for someone approachable who can support people who find themselves struggling to make ends meet for all kinds of reasons.
Over eighteen months I became more involved and began to learn about the kind of problems and solutions that were possible and needed. I was able to continue volunteering while I looked for work when a caseworker position became available at the centre.
Back to work – at PACE Advice
It was very unexpected but I was very excited to be able to apply for the position, my time volunteering and a background in library and information services gave me some of the skills I needed for the role and I have now been working as a trainee caseworker for eight months. It's my first job in almost five years!