Debt help in St Neots

07:11 Tuesday 12th August 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: You’ve experienced debt problems yourself, haven’t you? What happened to you?
INTERVIEWEE: I was in the process of losing my house, and I was on my own, and I had nobody there at the side of me to help me through this. But I’m a strong person, so I fought it the best way I could. And fortunately it worked for me.
PAUL STAINTON: How did you fight it?

INTERVIEWEE: Well I actually looked at the letters I got from the bank, saying that they were going to repossess my house. And I just thought no, you’re not going to take my house. So I contacted the local media, and they ran a story on it. And that put me on the front page of the newspaper, and within twenty four hours, the bank had contacted me to have a meeting, and stopped all the proceedings.
PAUL STAINTON: That’s quite a brave thing to do, isn’t it, to put all your dirty washing if you like on the front page of a newspaper? Very brave.
INTERVIEWEE: It was. It was scary. But at the end of the day, nobody was there at night times, when I was crying myself to sleep. There was no solution to this problem, because the banks were going to have it. The solicitors were cruel, because they knew what they wanted, and they were going to take it. So I just thought no. I’ve worked too hard too long for this. So I decided at that point that I was going to fight it the only way I could. So yes, it was brave. But you’ve got to be strong. But not a lot of people are strong like that. And a lot of people bury their heads and lose their houses, by not opening letters or facing the problem head-on.
PAUL STAINTON: Did the children see you crying, or did you manage to hide that?
INTERVIEWEE: Well no, because at night you’re alone, aren’t you? So you just cry alone.
PAUL STAINTON: An awful place to be. I can’t imagine, you sat there in the dark, crying your eyes out, and nobody to help.
INTERVIEWEE: There was. Yes. And being single as well, you know, you haven’t even got a partner who at least could wrap their arms around you and say look, hang on, it will be all right. Because you don’t. You know, you have to find it, and somewhere it comes from inside. I think I just got angry, because they weren’t going to change what they were going to do. And they weren’t going to listen either. And I thought well, something would stop them, and this did stop them. And hence we had a meeting. And I now have got my house, and I fought my way out of it. But it does take a lot out of you, and you so have to be a stromg person to do it.
PAUL STAINTON: What caused it? Were you spending willy-nilly, or was it just the pressure of every day bills?
INTERVIEWEE: No no. I had a business, and the company that was going to buy my business decided at the last minute they weren’t going to do it. But it was too far down to bring it back up again. And obviously it spiralled with the debs from the shop, plus I’ve got a charge on my property with the bank.
INTERVIEWEE: And they called their charge in. And they wouldn’t negotiate or anything. They just said we want our money, and we’re having it. But I thought well no you’re not.
PAUL STAINTON: There’s a positive message here then. You can fight this. You can read the letters. Is that the message that you give out, to ..
INTERVIEWEE: Well, I think it’s a matter of look, if the letters come, read them. This is why I’ve set LAD up in the first place, because I never wanted anybody to feel as low and as desolate as I did at that time. And that’s why we are a free independent debt charity.
PAUL STAINTON: How does Life Amid Debt help then? You go and speak to people, help them?
INTERVIEWEE: Yes. Well we do. We actually work with a family centre in St Neots, and we have a drop-in. And we’re open for anybody to call in at any time. And what we encourage families to do is come and talk to us. We have an advisor there. He’ll go though everything, and he will sit down, prioritise the debt, and help (with) the letters, and then stay with the families, work with the families, all the way through. And because LAD is unique, inasmuch as anybody can drop in at any time, there’s no phone-up for an appointment. We’re there. You can just call in.
PAUL STAINTON: Are things getting better or worse, around where you live in St Neots?
INTERVIEWEE: Well we haven’t seen a lot of change to be honest, because we’re still dealing with people that call in at the BC Centre in South St, and also at the family centre that we go to. And what we have done is put together a workshop called NonnyBites? that we are rolling out to families, starting at the family centres, and maybe trying to break into the schools. So it gives an education or money, and we’re staring first of all family centres with it.
PAUL STAINTON: Well that’s brilliant stuff. And I’m so pleased Anne that everything is working out for you a little bit better now as well. It’s so easy to fall into that spiral, isn’t it? The founder of Life Amid Debt, a charity in St Neots who can help you, if you’re facing money problems, if you’re in this situation.