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Gloucestershire mum Teresa Smith was in dire straits following the breakdown of her previous relationship.
The 53-year-old was unable to leave the house, or even hang her own washing out, following an abusive relationship with her ex which left her on anti-depressants and needing a series of counselling sessions.
Living in her one-bed home in Cirencester, Teresa shut herself off from the outside world and let her finances spiral out of control after being forced to quit her job.
“I was petrified. I wouldn’t even open the windows in my home and I had to give up my job at a local taxi company because of it,” Teresa explained. “I went onto benefits but I got myself in a bit of a pickle and I ended up in court after defaulting on a credit order agreement – a date was then set for my eviction.”
Teresa was told she could keep her home and neighbourhood coach Dave Grinter set about trying to build his relationship with her and her new partner Ian, 47.
“We sat down, got to know each other, and started to look at how we could maximise their income. Teresa was unable to work because of an existing condition but was not receiving all of the benefits she was entitled to,” Dave said.
“Her partner Ian and his daughter, Chelsea, had also moved into the one bed property causing them to be over-crowded. With the help of the charity P3, we worked together to get all of the benefits in place and helped them to get a handle on their finances which were spiralling out of control.”
Teresa had a PIP payment backdated which wiped off some of the debt and then her financial action plan was put in place as she made savings on various day-to-day expenses. But Dave realised that whilst the family remained in cramped living conditions, there was a chance that Teresa’s good progress could be undone.
“I knew they needed to move but their financial situation was limiting the options so it was a case of just talking to other colleagues and seeing what properties were coming up. I wanted to show them that there was light at the end of the tunnel,” Dave said.
At the start of the year, Dave became aware of another nearby customer wanting to downsize from his two-bed home and with Teresa’s arrears paid off and only the court costs remaining he was able to arrange a swap between the two parties.
Teresa said: “I think I spent two nights crying when I heard the news. It was so surreal and exactly what we needed to give us that fresh start.
“Dave made it happen and has been a guardian angel to me. For the first time in years I’m now in credit and I pay a little extra each month to ensure I build up a safety net. My confidence is also coming back – I’ll now stand in the front garden and talk to our neighbours and it’s a lovely little community where we are now.”
And Teresa’s experience has made her even more determined to instil good values in her teenage step-daughter.
“Chelsea already has a paper round and gets up at 6:15am each morning before school. I really want her to know the value of money from an early age. And her grades have gone up at school since moving to this new home – she was described by one teacher as being a completely different child.”
To mark their turnaround, Teresa and Ian are now setting their sights on more ambitious goals such as buying a new car and joining friends at a rock festival in Belgium.