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Find out about Emma - in her own words

Before I was in serious financial difficulty, I worked as a nurse for over 15 years, including during the pandemic. I also balanced my job with being a carer for my son with additional needs – he is autistic and has ADHD.

My partner was a self-employed taxi driver, and in February 2020 we took out a loan from our bank to help us get our finances in order for the future. However when the pandemic hit the following month, we lost everything practically overnight.

Taking on short term debt soon spiralled out of control

I immediately increased my working hours from 2 to 6 days per week, but without my partner’s income we were hit hard. We took out credit cards and used our overdraft to try and keep afloat for as long as possible, but even with one income remaining we still couldn’t make everything work. We accumulated council tax arrears and fell behind on our rent, and couldn’t find the money to pay for food, gas and electricity. I felt worthless.

We tried to tackle our debts by putting money towards the credit card with the highest interest rate first, but struggled to keep up with the repayments as my partner also had another credit card that he needed to pay towards. We also lost our car during this time.

Our creditors were constantly harassing us and trying to get us to agree to a payment plan, but this wasn’t realistic and we had numerous default notices flying around.

Things came to a head when I turned up at my son’s primary school one morning and burst into tears. I thought to myself – I can’t do this anymore, we can’t survive this and I can’t pretend that everything is normal. I felt like I was on the verge of a mental breakdown.

The school sprang into action and gave us two huge bags of food that day, and we were referred to a local supermarket who had expressed an interest in helping a family in need. At this stage, I was more than willing to put my pride aside and accept the help because we needed it so badly. We also managed to receive some fuel vouchers every week which made a big difference.

On the 14th October 2021 me and my partner got married, and 3 weeks later we were declared bankrupt. I’d gone through debt advice with StepChange and found the process quite emotionally difficult because of everything that has to go into it, but when the letter came though I was overcome with relief.

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Cost of living crisis is having an impact on family life

At the moment we’re still on one income because my husband is recovering from a bike accident that happened a few weeks ago, but I’m optimistic about moving forwards because we’ve finally been able to access some benefits also a food bank. However, the cost of living increases are already affecting us. I can't afford to do any family events, not even a meal out. We used to take our son skating and bowling at weekends but now we can't - there's things I want to do but with reduced income and higher prices I can't do it.

Help is available

I want everyone to know about the help out there that is available because until now, I had no idea about the type of support that you’re able to apply for and get hold of when you need it. I’d like to see creditors be more mindful of people’s mental health when they’re constantly on your back about repayments, as this caused me a huge amount of stress and I wasn’t able to eat or sleep for a long time. I also want authorities to make their referral processes and application forms more accessible for people so that there are fewer barriers to them getting the assistance they need when they’re at their lowest.

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