Money Wellness
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calendar icon20 Mar 2024

Debt Awareness Week: Matthew’s story

To mark Debt Awareness Week, we've been speaking to our customers about how they're dealing with their money worries.

If I’d have had hair, it would probably have fallen out

After losing his job, Matthew started claiming universal credit, but his payments were nowhere near enough to cover all his bills. Before he rang us, the worry caused by mounting debt was affecting his mental health.

Keen to get his finances in order, Matthew had already contacted some creditors himself, and even agreed payment plans with a few, but he still couldn’t make his money stretch to cover all his debts. He explained, “There was a couple I defaulted on, like the bank and everything, because by the time I paid the others, there wasn’t enough to go round everybody."

He added, “It’s when you haven’t got the money and you’re trying to say ‘look I haven’t got the money’ and they still want you to pay… You try and explain your circumstances - they just don’t want to know about that. All they’re after is the money. When you haven’t got it, it’s like, what do I do? Do I answer the phone? Do I not answer the phone?”

Matthew recalled how stressed the contact from his creditors made him feel. He joked, “If I’d have had hair, it would probably have fallen out.”

I couldn’t wish for better people

Confiding in a stranger about money worries isn’t always easy. The fact Matthew has a stutter adds another obstacle when it comes to speaking on the phone, but he said he was made to feel at ease immediately.

Referring to his stutter, he revealed, “It hardly came out at all. When I’m nervous or stressed, that’s when it comes out.” 

Talking to us about his experience on the phone, he said, “Yourselves and your colleagues have made it so easy. There wasn’t any stress… I couldn’t have wished for it to go any better. It took everything off me. Your colleagues dealt with everything. They were so polite. I couldn’t wish for better people really.”

Football rivalries aside

As a lifelong Liverpool FC fan, Matthew revealed he’d had some fun with our Manchester-based advisers. “With one of the gentlemen I was talking to, I even made that comment as a joke, ‘well I don’t think you’re going to help me,’ because I think Liverpool were playing Man United that weekend. He said ‘well, you seem like a nice person, I’m sure we can help you.’ Things like that make it a lot easier and it took the edge off.”

A fresh start

After going though Matthew’s finances, we recommended a DRO. This will freeze his debts for a year. If his situation doesn’t improve during that time, his debts will be written off. While his debts are frozen, his creditors can’t chase him for payment.

Currently, there’s a £90 fee for a DRO although, the government recently 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.

Matthew’s DRO will be recorded on his credit file for six years, making it harder for him to borrow during that time. But for people like Matthew, with no way of paying back their debts, it offers the chance of a fresh start.

It’s lifted a massive weight

Commenting on the transformative effect his DRO has had on his life, Matthew said, “From having sleepless nights worrying where the next money’s coming from to rob Peter to pay Paul… not having work… [to] having this in place… it’s lifted a massive weight.”

He added, “I can look forward now and not have to keep looking… Hopefully, I can start moving on now.”

More than first class

After his experience of debt advice, Matthew is in no doubt about the advice he’d give to others in his situation He said, “If any family and friends say, you know, need anyone, you’ll be the first people I tell them to contact.”

He added, “it was more than first class, in my experience. I couldn’t wish for a better team to contact. It made it so easy for me.”

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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