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Everywhere you look there are Christmas adverts showing happy, smiley faces with families and friends feasting on piles of festive food and sharing expensive gifts with each other. You could easily be fooled into believing that everyone is having a wonderful time but the reality isn’t always as fantastic as the adverts would have you believe. For many people Christmas is a really stressful time. The pressure to spend, spend, spend can push people to the limits - especially if they’re in poor health and struggling to make ends meet financially.

Last Christmas, getting into the festive spirit was the last thing on Sarah’s* mind. Having lived with chronic pain for many years, she had finally been taken into hospital for an emergency colostomy operation. Sarah’s said:

The operation saved my life and now I have to adapt to living with a medical appliance that needs specific attention.

Living with constant pain for years obviously had an effect on Sarah’s ability to work and on numerous occasions she’d tried to claim welfare benefits - but all of her applications had been refused. Because of this she found herself extremely short of money and her mental health really suffered.

 

Following the operation Sarah was eligible to reapply for Personal Independent Payments (PIP) but was too weak physically and emotionally to make the application. She had been refused for the last 12 years and couldn’t face another rejection.

It was at this point that Sarah was referred to Sam Siviter, one of Bromford’s money advisors. Here Sam takes up the story.

 

Sarah was in hospital when I first met her. Because of her years of financial struggle she found herself with debts of around £3,000 – most of which were quite small which made it really hard for her to manage them. She was receiving the lowest rate of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) meaning that her income was so low she was struggling to get by, and when her cooker stopped working there was no way she could afford to buy a replacement.  Her Housing Benefit didn’t cover the cost of her rent so, on top of everything else, rent arrears were building up, which only added to her stress.

Before she became ill, Sarah had been a college lecturer. Although she is an intelligent lady, Sarah found the benefits system difficult to understand and the stress of applying (and being refused) resulted in her losing confidence. She had been used to a busy social life but because of her lack of money and loss of confidence her friendships had been lost – leaving her isolated and lonely.

Over the next few months I spent a lot of time getting to know all about Sarah’s life. If our customers are going to trust us it’s really important that we listen to them. Opening up about your finances can be really hard for a lot of people so as a money advisor I need to be able to build trusting relationships with my customers.

It’s been nearly a year since we first met and I’m really happy to say that Sarah is in a much better place now. Her PIP application was accepted, her ESA payments have increased meaning that she now has enough money to cover the shortfall in her rent. We also applied to various trusts who helped to clear a lot of Sarah’s debts…and she’s even received a new cooker from one of them.

It’s still a struggle for Sarah as she has to undergo another two operations in the coming months and she also lives with fibromyalgia which regularly flares-up -  but at least her finances are looking a little healthier. Her debts are under control, her rent is being paid and, because she has the correct benefits in place, she is now around £300 per month better off.

Sarah was so pleased with the help she got from Sam that she sent us a lovely letter. Sam is a little embarrassed by the praise but we feel it’s well-earned so here’s a few lines from the letter:

When Sam came to visit me and explained the ways in which she could be of assistance to me, I was overjoyed and relieved…
To say that her assistance has changed my life does not go far enough to explain what her help has done for me…
I can honestly say that she has been there for me far beyond the call of duty. She has not only been a money advisor, she has been a counsellor and confidant…
I don’t know what I would have done without her help. The service has been invaluable to me.

This Christmas should be a little more enjoyable for Sarah now that she’s had the help she needed to get her money situation under control. Her confidence is coming back and she now feels able to be a bit more sociable, so this Christmas she won’t be alone.

 

*Name changed

 

 

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Hi there, I'm one of the writers and content creators at Bromford...It's all about storytelling and social media for me.  

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