Our partner organisation Thrive Teesside have been working with Kath. This is her story.
Kath originally took out hire-purchase agreements with BrightHouse and Perfect Homes so that she could buy a washing machine and other items of furniture. With the repayments to these companies adding up to £171 every fortnight, plus extra charges (interest, late payments, etc), Kath had to take out other loans to pay for everyday essentials. Kath’s husband, who suffers from mental health problems, mistakenly signed up to a doorstep seller offering home improvement services totalling £49,000 plus interest, and an extra £300 which he thought was an incentive for signing up, but in fact was just added onto the bill.
The debts began to spiral out of control, with some companies pushing more and more loans onto Kath’s existing debt. Kath believes the loan companies acted irresponsibly; when she got close to paying off one loan they would say, “Now you’re down to £100, we can offer you another £200.” Kath suffers from depression and says
It was like a drug, if you know what I mean. If they offer it you’re going to take it. That’s how it was for me, I couldn’t say no to them. They played to my fears. It felt like they were putting pressure on you.
Kath even showed some of the companies that she had other debts to repay but they just said “Oh, you’ll be alright …. Just borrow a bit more, it will see you through.”
She no longer had any spare money for food, fuel and clothes. She sometimes had to turn to the local food bank to feed her family, and she could not afford heating – having to use four or five blankets on the bed at night and worsening her asthma.
Kath also worries about her son, who has epilepsy. The family have not been able to have a holiday for the last 15 years, and she feels that her son would benefit from a holiday or other outdoor activities. He spends most of his time in the house, due to the financial situation, and Kath is upset that she is not able to afford to take him out.
Kath has suffered from depression and anxiety due to the stress caused by her debts; at one point she was suicidal. Kath received help from Thrive and an organisation called StepChange, who have helped her manage her debts and organise her money so that she has enough left for food and bills each week.
Kath would like to warn other people of the dangers of taking out high-interest loans and credit agreements:
I’m just trying to let people know not to take debt on if they can’t afford it. In the end, it’s like a weight on you. You can’t sleep, you can’t eat properly, you’re crying all the time, and you just daren’t answer the door to people. I don’t want people being in the same situation I’ve been in.
In September we will launch a new publication and campaign action targeting the high-cost lenders who got Kath into so much trouble. Help us to stop the legal loan sharks and ensure that people like Kath pay Fair Prices.
This work is part of our ‘Food, Fuel, Finance’ programme, tackling the ‘Poverty Premium’ paid by people on low incomes for everyday goods and services.