Money Wellness
An illustration of three figures trying to run away from a debt wrecking ball
category iconMoney Wellness
calendar icon18 Mar 2024

Debt Awareness Week: Josh’s story

A dark past

Debt built up during a battle with drug addiction had a devastating impact on Josh’s life. By the time he hit 30, there was no doubt in his mind something needed to change. So when he was offered a place in supported accommodation in a new city, he grabbed the lifeline with both hands. He explained, “I came from quite a dark past... I had substance misuse problems… So I was given an opportunity to move up to Derby to start afresh.”

They found me

But Josh soon discovered escaping your past isn’t always easy. He recalled, “I remember sitting down and I had a letter come through in the post… It was a debt letter. They found me. And yeah, that made me kind of feel a bit depressed in a way, in a lot of ways, just because obviously anywhere I was going, it was following me.”

It ruined a lot of things

During his battle with drug addiction, Josh built up credit-card and phone-bill debts of £12,000. His struggles with substance abuse and his subsequent financial problems tore his home life apart. Contact with his son was limited as he wasn’t providing regular financial support. He admitted, “It ruined my relationship with my family… It ruined a lot of things.”

Bombarded by creditors

It got to the point where Josh couldn’t see a way out and it was becoming harder and harder to bury his head in the sand. He said, “Funnily enough, I thought the credit cards were going to be the worst, but the phone bills were just as bad. I think they were the worst just because they were quite bombarding… The credit cards were just kind of in the background, just stacking up. I just wasn’t acknowledging it, any of it.”

Will I be judged?

Josh was starting to lose hope. No matter what he did, he couldn’t escape the mistakes of his past and he couldn’t ignore them anymore. By the time he turned to us, he was feeling desperate. He said, “I went onto Google, I just typed in debt advice and, yeah, Money Wellness came at the top. I thought, do you know what, I’ll give you a go. I was a bit hesitant, very nervous ‘cause, one, I don’t like talking on the phone, two, I’m like, I don’t know how that person’s gonna react towards me. I just don’t know if I’m gonna get judged or anything like that.”

Debt advice your way

It’s common to feel nervous about getting debt advice. And, like Josh, a lot of people don’t relish talking on the phone. That’s why we offer our customers the option of getting advice online if they prefer. Whatever method people use to get in touch, we’ll do everything we can to find a solution to their problems. We do this job because we want to help.

Why are you being so nice to me?

Despite being nervous about using the phone, Josh decided that would be the best option for him and he spoke to our adviser Danielle. Recalling that conversation, he said, “Do you know what? She made me feel so chilled out, so at peace. I kept questioning her, and asking her like, why are you being so nice to me? Like, why are you so understanding about it?... She was brilliant.”

I feel so ashamed

He added, “I said to her, you know, I feel so ashamed because of the lifestyle that I lived before. And now I’m changing my life around and now I’m dealing with my finances. I was expecting her to judge me. And there was just nothing. There was no judgement there. Nothing at all.”

As part of his supported-accommodation package, there are people on hand to help Josh manage his money, but he was particularly impressed with Danielle. He said, “I think she should be like a key worker here because we get key workers for budgeting and financing and she was so much better… Hopefully my keyworker doesn’t hear this!”

Don’t worry, it’s fine

Danielle went through all of Josh’s income, spending and debts. Referring to the companies he owed money to he said, “sadly there was a lot I didn’t know about, I forgot about. But every single time she was mentioning all of the companies, she was like ‘don’t worry, it’s fine. We’ll come up with a conclusion with all of this’. And I was like, ‘are you sure? Are you positive or is this doom and gloom?’ But, yeah, after the call, I felt so at peace, so chilled out. I remember I called a couple of friends, I was like ‘mate I’ve done it. I can’t believe I’ve actually called the debt advice people’.”

The best decision I made

We recommended a debt relief order (DRO), something Josh hadn’t heard of before speaking to Danielle. He said, “I just thought, you know, I’m going to be paying this off for the rest of my life. I didn’t know there was an option of DRO or the bankruptcy side of things… until I had it fully explained to me. It all made complete sense… It was just that first initial making that choice of giving the call… It was the best decision I made.”

About DROs

If Josh goes ahead with a DRO application and it’s accepted, his debts will be frozen for a year and then written off if his situation doesn’t improve. During the 12 months while his credit-card and mobile-phone bills are frozen, his creditors can’t chase him for payment.

Currently, there’s a £90 fee for a DRO although, in his spring budget, the chancellor announced this will be scrapped from 6 April. DROs are aimed at people with up to £30,000 of debt (increasing to £50,000 from 28 June), very few assets and hardly any spare money at the end of each month. A DRO will be recorded on your credit file for six years, making it harder to borrow during that time. But for those with no way of paying back their debts, it offers the chance of a fresh start.

Josh’s fresh start

Dealing with his money worries has had a positive knock-on effect on other areas of Josh’s life too. He explained that relationships he thought had been damaged beyond repair are now being rebuilt. Talking about those he let down in the past, he said, “So many of them people are turning round and going, ‘do you know what? I’ll give him his due, he’s owning up [to] his stuff, he’s dealing with it.’ And it seems… slowly but surely, relationships are growing back again.”

Don’t be afraid

Josh is now looking forward to the future and has advice for anyone else in his position. He urges those considering getting help with their debts, “Don’t be afraid. Do what I did and just give it a call, give the number a call and I promise you from the very bottom of my heart, because I’m very much of a person that is very fearful of all of them things, it’s the best decision that you’ll make. And it’s the first step of your journey. And it’ll just be an amazing, peaceful journey.”


Avatar of Rebecca Routledge

Rebecca Routledge

A qualified journalist for over 15 years with a background in financial services. Rebecca is Money Wellness’s consumer champion, helping you improve your financial wellbeing by providing information on everything from income maximisation to budgeting and saving tips.

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