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On top of a long list of physical and psychological conditions, being thousands of pounds in debt had simply compounded Gina’s feelings of hopelessness.

The Gloucestershire resident, who has lived in her Bromford home since 2000, suffers from fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, anxiety and depression along with a number of other conditions. When a previous relationship came to an end, her ex-partner left 51-year-old Gina* with a number of debts which exacerbated her mental health conditions and forced her to retreat further into her shell.

“When my ex left, he left me with a load of debt as well as the emotional hardship that goes along with it. That made me struggle even more because I’ve been paying debt that he should have been paying for,” Gina explained.

“Because of the way I am, you are never the same each day. You get so low, so down, and you can’t cope and retreat into yourself like an ostrich. When you’re in that state of mind and that state of health, it is easier to just shut up shop.”

Then in summer 2017, with new neighbourhood coach Jacob Gibbons tasked to get to know all of his customers, he paid Gina a visit and quickly discovered the situation unfolding between her four walls.

“When I stepped foot inside Gina’s home it was very apparent early on that she had no previous relationship with us. When I started hearing about some of the issues she was having, I thought there was a good chance we could work with her to help,” he said.

Jacob referred Gina for more specialist help from Bromford money advisor Audrey Hourston who put a plan-of-action in place and placed all five regulated debts on hold before managing to get two of them written off. She also coached Gina on how to manage her money better going forward and helped her complete a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) form so that she could maximise the benefits she was entitled to.

Progress

Six months on and Jacob and Audrey are continuing to work with Gina to manage the rest of her debts and to build a surplus into her rent account, boosting her mental wellbeing as a result.

Gina said: “It has been such a relief to finally have someone fighting my corner and knowing I have someone to turn to. I was on disability living allowance and Audrey helped me with the PIP forms so I could get my full entitlement – it was an awful worry for me because if I had lost my mobility car living in this rural area, how would I have got anywhere? The buses are few and far between, I can’t walk very far, so life would have been intolerable without a car.

“Things are now looking a lot better than they were and I’ve even become a bit of an ambassador for the neighbourhood coach role – I was selling lunch at the village hall yesterday and we were all talking and I was telling a few people about Bromford’s new way of working and they were asking all about it – they weren’t aware so I was explaining how it’s so handy and reassuring to know Jacob is only a telephone call away.”

Jacob added: “All of the skills coaches and money advisers are so invaluable – even if it’s not an official referral, they are always on the end of the phone offering any advice that you need and it just shows the great cross-team working we have here at Bromford really. Gina still has a way to go yet but the progress she has made so far is really encouraging and the main thing is that she is now regularly engaging and knows we are there to help and support her – we’re not just her landlord anymore.”

*name changed to protect identity

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