During a conversation with an indebted individual, we heard their story of being trapped in a debt cycle which they were powerless to avoid.
David was in his 50's and lived in a two bedroom flat. His son had moved into his own property and now his extra bedroom was no longer required. David had mental health problems and had been on benefits for many years. He wished to get back to work.
David called Debt Support Trust to get benefit and debt help. He had fallen behind on his rent because he couldn't afford the additional 14% for having the second bedroom.
David had requested a smaller property however there were none available. He asked for help to manage the arrears with his housing association and there was nothing they can do. David was getting the benefits he was entitled to but the cost of rent, gas, electricity and food left him short every month. Prior to receiving support for mental health problems, David was an engineer working for over 20 years.
For David, he felt like he was being left behind and isn't a valuable member of the community. When he spoke to a Debt Support Trust advisor, we sympathised with David's situation but there was little we could do to help. We reviewed David's income and expenditure to find cost savings, we ensured he was getting the correct benefits and gave him tips to deal with creditors. However, as David said, "this won't solve the fact I'm stuck in a property I can't afford".
David was correct. He's in a property which is too expensive so to compensate he has cut his food bill to below the breadline to survive.
David said "We spent £37 billion fighting a war in Afghanistan and we're trying to save £1.2 billion off the benefits bill. It doesn't make sense".
The Benefits Argument
Many disgruntled people on benefits explain their frustration to our money advice team. Most people we speak to wish to get back to employment, however they argue the opportunities don't exist. People who are on long term unemployment and wish to move into a smaller property are being told they can't because the properties aren't available.
Being stuck between a "rock and a hard place" is a difficult problem, which many people face. The Government doesn't appear to be making any U-turns in the near future, so we can expect an increase in people owing money to their landlord.
We need to separate the "can't pays" from the "won't pays". Debt Support Trust help the "can't pays" find a route to manage their debt problems. The majority of people we help want to improve their lives and don't want to accrue debts. Very few people we help are earning excessive amounts of benefit income while being capable of working. Most struggle to make ends meet and are currently accruing debts because of rent arrears.