It’s given me the confidence to take the steps to sort things out

‘I had a debt management plan with a commercial company but I was made redundant in January and the six months of freelance work I had lined up was cancelled due to Covid. Because I’d been made redundant, there was no option of furlough and I hadn’t been self-employed long enough to be eligible for that support scheme either, so very quickly my financial situation completely collapsed. I was scraping around trying to make ends meet and eventually the stress of my situation added to my mental health pressures. My way of coping was to bury my head in the sand completely when it came to money.

‘I hadn’t told the commercial company about the changes to my situation and I’d been ignoring their letters for months – not even opening them. Then one day I received a county court summons and I realised everything had escalated really dramatically.

‘I found it really difficult to cope. I’d been working for 25 years and had always been able to sort things out for myself but now I didn’t even know where to turn to for help and I felt embarrassed to ask.

‘A friend recommended I go to Citizens Advice Bureau who referred me to the Law Centre. By this time I only had seven days before the court’s deadline to return the paperwork. I had an initial conversation with Eva, one of the debt advisers at the Law Centre, and once she understood the urgency of my situation she made time to schedule in a two-hour appointment within 48 hours and told me exactly what I needed for the appointment.

‘Speaking to Eva was great! It wasn’t an easy appointment for me, but she was incredibly reassuring and supportive the whole way through. We went through the court form together and I felt very well advised, guided and, most importantly, listened to. Because she took the time to really understand my situation and to explain what was and wasn’t relevant, I felt very reassured and knew I could trust her advice.

‘Later that day she emailed me a detailed budget with a clearly explained list of options for the medium term. I submitted the form and budget to the court – before the deadline – and they accepted my monthly offer of payment. It was a huge relief to me! I’ve also been able to use the budget with other creditors to establish a holding situation until things improve. It’s given me six months’ grace and one less thing to worry about. I also know what I need to do now and I have a much better understanding of the legalities of my situation.

‘I’ve since had a follow-up call with Eva just to check in and it’s great to know I have her on-going support. The advice she gave me was excellent and so timely – it’s saved me a huge amount of pressure and given me the confidence to take the steps to sort things out.

‘For anyone in my position, I would say don’t put off asking for help. If you’re prepared to be open and honest you can get the best advice – and for free.’

Andrew* contacted us for help with filling out court papers having received a County Court summons. Our debt caseworker helped him complete a detailed Income and Expenditure form and the court accepted his offer of paying his creditors £1 per month.

*not his real name