Lynda contacted us when she received a letter from an enforcement company about her council tax arrears. She has poor mental health and claims Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – benefits for people living with disabilities or health conditions. She spoke to us about how our debt caseworker, Adrian, has been helping her:
“A few weeks ago, I got letters from the bailiff about my council tax debt. They gave me three weeks to get something sorted. That’s when I first contacted Citizens Advice Barnet and got an appointment with Adrian.
“I called the bailiff company the day before the deadline and said Citizens Advice Barnet were
helping me (on Adrian’s advice), and they said they’d make a note on their system. A few days later, the man from the bailiffs came round. I was at my daughter’s at the time but my son was there so he spoke to him then called me.
“He was a horrible man. I explained to him I’ve got mental health issues, and that I’m on PIP and ESA, but he said he wanted £750 minimum. I’m just about keeping my head above water – there’s no way I could afford that. He kept saying ‘I’m going to break in, I’ve got the right to break in.’ In the back of my mind I knew he didn’t, but I just went into panic mode. I wasn’t at home so I couldn’t do anything face to face. I was scared.
“I emailed the hub for the attention of Adrian who rang me back. He said the bailiff man couldn’t break in – he could only get in if I let him in. He also said not to pay him anything – my daughter had offered to lend me £350 to pay him. She’d have had to empty her bank account to do that – I don’t know how she would have fed her kids.
“He called the bailiff man and said he’d forward on all my documents he needed. The bailiff man said it would take seven days to process and that he’d keep banging on my door in those days.
“Adrian got me this thing called breathing space. I have one credit card and Paypal credit, but I only use them for essentials – nothing frivolous – things like the electricity meter – and I always pay them off in full, but breathing space means I can’t use them now. We weren’t sure if I’d be able to or not, but I just wanted the bailiff to go away.
“Adrian’s now putting me forward for a DRO – a debt relief order. I listened to his advice and decided that’s the way to go for me. I have to pay £90 for it and can’t borrow more than £500 in 12 months, but it stops them hassling you, and after that your debts are written off.
“I’ll have a fresh start.
“Adrian has helped me so, so much. He’s marvellous – all the help and all the advice – he’s brilliant. For him to get back to me so quickly that day – it was my good fortune that he was there. He’s a calming influence.
“I would say to people: ‘Just get in touch – the help is there.’ Sometimes it’s a case of burying my head in the sand. But if you’ve got mental health issues, you cannot cope. You see a dodgy envelope, you just don’t open it, you put it aside. But if you do get bailiff letters, don’t ignore them. Go to Citizens Advice Barnet – they’re there to help you. The advice and the help is there.”
Doing it through Citizens Advice Barnet, you know they’ve gone through everything. I wish I’d done it a while ago.