Case Studies


John's debts became difficult to manage when his hours were cut

John had credit debts of around £30,000. He was also two months behind with his mortgage. The debts became difficult to manage when his hours were cut at work.  Both John and his partner were working and they had a four-year-old child.  

John spoke to an expert adviser, Lisa, on the National Debtline helpline. Lisa listened to John’s story and was then able to give him full advice to help increase his income by applying for child tax credit. After completing a household budget, Lisa gave John detailed yet easy-to-follow advice on dealing with his mortgage arrears and on making affordable offers of payment on his credit debts. She told him to offer a little extra each month to his mortgage lender to reduce his mortgage arrears over a reasonable time.  John then used National Debtline’s online money advice system My Money Steps to create letters to contact the other companies he owed money to. 

This meant John was able to agree affordable arrangements with both his mortgage lender and his other creditors. He admitted that he had never sat down and listed his living costs before, and could not believe how much clearer things were as a result.   


Carmen needed advice about debt solutions

Carmen had spoken to a couple of commercial debt management companies, both of whom had suggested that her best option would be a ‘Trust Deed’. She was working part-time, living in rented accommodation and had debts of £25,000. 

Carmen called National Debtline to get an independent opinion and spoke to adviser Ravi. He went through Carmen’s income and outgoings to make sure that she was claiming all the benefits she could. Ravi gave Carmen clear advice on Trust Deeds  and how one might work in her circumstances. Ravi also explained the  alternative options such as negotiating with creditors herself, a Debt Arrangement Scheme and bankruptcy. This meant that Carmen was able to make an informed decision about the best route to take, without feeling under pressure to choose a particular option.

As Carmen had relatively little money spare to offer her creditors, and did not expect her situation to improve in the future,  she decided that bankruptcy would be the most effective way of dealing with her debts. Ravi had advised Carmen how to take the “Low Income, Low Asset” route into bankruptcy so she was able to apply for this straight away. 


Saeed found the benefits of budgeting and the Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS)

Saeed owed his gas supplier £396 that he couldn’t pay in one go. The supplier referred him to National Debtline for independent advice on dealing with this and other debts he had mentioned. 

He called our free helpline and explained his situation to Rachel, who explained that we could look at his finances in detail and suggest a way forward. Rachel completed a household budget with Saeed which showed his outgoings were greater than his income. However Rachel suspected that Saeed was not getting all the help he could and she highlighted benefits he could claim to top up his income, as well as areas of his spending where he could make significant savings. For example, she noted that taking lunches to work could save Saeed up to £65 a month. Making such changes would enable him to pay off his energy arrears by Christmas while also clearing an outstanding court fine. 

Rachel recommended that Saeed think about using a Debt Arrangement Scheme to repay the rest of his debts which were mostly in the hands of debt collectors. She explained in clear and simple terms the protection this scheme would give Saeed from further action, creditor contact and additional interest and charges by these companies, and pointed him towards a specialist money adviser at his local council who would be able to set this up for him. 


Jack needed help with budgeting to buy a new home

Jack - aged 23 and is working fulltime.  He had a minimum deposit saved but needed help to make his home buying plans a reality. He contacted the Money Advice Service and their Money Adviser explained all the fees and costs involved, Jack saw that his budget would be tight and went away aiming to try and reduce outgoings. Over time Jack reduced his budget and built up some savings so he was in a stable position to buy a home. Jack said he was thankful for our help in understanding the full costs of buying and running a home.

Unexpected circumstances left Harold depressed and unable to manage his debt

Harold is in his late forties and has three children living with him, as well as three grown-up children who have left home.  Harold became depressed after his wife died suddenly two years ago.  He could no longer cope with his job as a lorry driver while also looking after his children, and was forced to give up work.  He sought debt advice from the Money Advice Service when he found he was unable to meet payments on various bills and debts. 

Harold was initially advised to take on a repayment plan but on reviewing his circumstances further, he eventually filed for bankruptcy.  Although he still suffers from depression, he is now more in control of his finances and feels relief that his debts have gone.

“I’m very glad that I sought advice.  This sounds very strong but I do believe they kind of saved my life, because I was on the edge when I contacted them.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without seeking advice.  I was getting so depressed and it took it off my mind.  My son advised me to do this as he had used the service before, and we are both a lot better.  It took the stress off.”

Nichola's debt problem grew as she buried her head in the sand

I thought moving to the other end of the country would end it, but the letters, and the debts, followed me. I was only about 21 when it started, with just one expensive phone bill. I took out a loan and it snowballed from there. Then I got made redundant and I ended up homeless; by the time I had moved into a council flat in Glasgow, I felt I’d hit rock bottom. I could barely sleep, always terrified of the postman, and felt so ashamed.

I heard about the Christians Aagainst Poverty (CAP) through a nearby community centre. Jacqui from my local CAP Debt Centre came over and made me feel so at ease. All I needed to do was send all my paperwork to CAP and they would make me a budget that would ensure I became debt free whilst still having money to buy everything I needed. Afterwards the phone calls stopped, I no longer had to skip meals, and I didn’t dread answering the door. I can’t describe how amazing it is to be debt-free now; CAP offered me a freedom I thought I would never know again.


Robert's change in circumstances lead to money problems

Robert was a recently separated 45-year-old factory worker from Ayrshire. He was on a low wage and had around £18,000 of unsecured debt in his sole name when he sought advice.

Robert emailed us out of hours and was directed to our online advice resource My Money Steps (developed by the National Debtline) for immediate help. He was able to set up an anonymous profile with little fuss, and entered details of his debts along with his income and expenditure. My Money Steps suggested a range of options for dealing with his debts based on the information he gave, as well as links to further information and an explanation of the next steps he should take. 

As he had a small amount of savings but was struggling to keep up with his debts and did not own any property, My Money Steps suggested that Robert make lump sum offers in “full and final settlement” to his creditors, and gave him letter templates to use. It also worked out how much he should offer to each creditor based on their share of his debt. 

Robert had a mixed response from his creditors at first but was prompted by My Money Steps to use the “follow-up” letter templates to ask them to reconsider. He was able to agree a settlement to pay back 30% of the amount he owed on all but one of his debts, and is now paying instalments he can afford to this last creditor. He told us he feels much happier and more in control now that he no longer has to deal with a wide group of debt collectors. 


Mr & Mrs McPhee took out high interest loans but struggled to repay

Mr & Mrs McPhee, in their early fifties have been struggling to pay their mortgage since the death of their grandchild. Their son lives with them but is currently unemployed and cannot contribute to the household income.

They have a car loan and had borrowed money from door step lenders who they have been paying instead of their mortgage. The doorstep lenders in particular were demanding particularly high weekly payments, and as the collection agents turned up at their home each week to collect the money, the clients were too scared and embarrassed to explain that the payments were unaffordable.

They later took out payday loans to cover their direct debits to try to avoid high bank charges. Their income was being paid at different times; for one, weekly and the other, four weekly. This made things harder to budget and manage.

They contacted Shelter Scotland and they explained that they should pay their mortgage and secured loan first to help prevent homelessness, and agreed repayment arrangements with both lenders. They helped them to re-organise their monthly payments into priority order and to be scheduled for dates where there would definitely be adequate funds available. Shelter Scotland also contacted all the other creditors on their behalf. The clients have kept their home and feel able to manage with the help they have received.

Creditors kept chasing Brian for payment

When I found myself in debt, creditors were calling me six times a day, and at one point I was actually contemplating suicide. I wouldn’t have been here today if wasn’t for Christians Aagainst Poverty (CAP). We barely had enough to get through month, which put so much stress on my marriage, and I had the added pressure of serious medical issues. I was in a really deep depression and fearful every time the phone rang.

When CAP got involved, the calls stopped; I no longer had to panic over new letters, and Jean, my debt coach, was always on the end of the phone if I needed help. CAP dealt with the creditors and the budget they created for us was so liveable. CAP gave me hope.

I had been so embarrassed, ashamed and apprehensive before I met Jean. It meant opening up my whole life before someone I didn’t know. But she was so warm and eased all my fears. Now, after three years with CAP, I am debt free. CAP took the burden from around neck and life now is freedom!

Mrs Foster was struggling with her finances due to expensive times and a reduced income

Mrs Foster telephoned the Shelter Scotland as she was struggling with her finances just before Christmas. She had arrears on her mortgage and on a secured loan. In addition to this Mrs Foster also had council tax arrears.What led to problems?

  • One income household – Mr Foster works as a counter assistant in a building supplies firm – hours reduced.
  • Mr & Mrs Foster do not save for unexpected expenses.
  • They took a secured loan to consolidate unsecured debts.
  • Mrs Foster gets tax credits weekly, and her husband gets paid fortnightly but mortgage and secured loan are paid monthly.

What did we do to help?

  • We completed a comprehensive financial statement.
  • We checked to ensure that budgets are not too tight for long term sustainability.
  • Carried out checks that lifestyle and current home were affordable.
  • Completed income maximisation process and checked all benefits entitlements.
  • Negotiated with creditors to have an interest only payment for a couple of months on mortgage.

How did we empower her?

  • Advised Mrs Foster to open a separate bill account.
  • Gave advice on how to prioritise payments and ensure they (mortgage, council tax and secured loan) always get paid by ensuring income paid at set time to certain account.
  • Budget weekly using benefit payments for housekeeping and other expenditure in a spending account.
  • Ensure that budget includes trips for kids, Christmas, meals at school, clothing and footwear.
  • Encouraged them to regularly put clothing, footwear and Christmas budget into a separate children’s savings account which can pay higher rates.
  • Put client in touch with the energy savings trust who can give specialist advice on reducing energy bills, grants and switching.
  • Gave advice on how to save for emergencies.

How is Mrs Foster coping?

  • She is budgeting better and has managed to reduce arrears on mortgage and secured loan.
  • She has separate accounts so is not tempted to spend money for priority payments.
  • She also has a realistic budget for next Christmas so should not have to miss any priority payments to cover cost.

Separation lead to unmanageable bills

A customer contacted the Money Advice Service by phone for immediate help concerning her mortgage arrears and debts.  She had split from her husband a few months prior to the call.  This had left her with mortgage and utility bill arrears, and she also owed money on a credit card and an outstanding loan.  She had ‘buried her head in the sand’ since the separation and had not spoken to any of her creditors.  At the beginning of the call the customer was almost in tears as she thought she would lose her home.

She was advised on how to discuss her situation with her mortgage provider and potential options for the repayment of arrears.  She was also recommended to use a benefits calculator to check possible entitlements, and to contact her utility providers and creditors to inform them of her situation.  By the end of the call she shed tears of joy as we guided her on how to manage her situation.

Robert was unemployed and had to learn to budget

Robert is in his early forties and lives with his wife and teenage daughter. He has been unemployed for the last two years when he was made redundant unexpectedly and his wife has a part time job. He was struggling with household bills and credit commitments, and sought debt advice when these got out of control. Robert’s adviser helped him get his debts written off – and also helped him learn how to budget more effectively.

Money Advice Service Budget Planner Tool

“The budget planner is fantastic and really easy to use.  It’s shown my wife and I what we spend most of our money on and how we can save money.  It’s really useful.”

“I’ve printed the planner out and I have it on the kitchen wall to show my daughter where the money goes to.  She knows we don’t have much left at the end of the month so she is careful not to waste food and electric etc.”

Losing her job left Linda struggling with debt

Life before Christians Against Poverty (CAP) left me desperate. I lost my job and debt just accumulated from there. I wasn’t eating properly and struggled to give my children healthy meals – it was heartbreaking. I woke up every day feeling so stressed and low, but I couldn’t talk to anyone about it as I felt so ashamed.

I saw CAP’s details on a letter from the Job Centre and Pat came to visit me. She took me for a food shop, and explained how CAP would do the hard part – all I had to do was stick to the budget they would create for me. I broke down in tears. I couldn’t believe how simple the solution could be.

Soon the letters stopped piling up, the phone stopped ringing, and I began to see the way out. It’s amazing how much things can change. Only a year ago I was in a mess and I felt so alone; now I’m off benefits, I have a job and I even have a car! With no judgment and no pressure, CAP offered me a new life.