“I first heard of REACH through my family support worker who gave me a food voucher. She asked me to go up to get some food. We had a support worker as my partner was pregnant and she was worried that we were not eating properly and we had no money for gas and electricity.
A few months back, I was working and earning a good salary, but then I suffered a back injury through doing repetitive work and this lead to statutory sick pay of £88.45 a week. I was not on any benefits as every time I applied, something went wrong with the forms. I had lots of struggles and anxiety due to my debts, and I could not pay my rent or my utility bills. My relationship was suffering too and we nearly separated. My home was damp and cold and it was not in a good state, no matter how much I tried to draught proof or do home renovation. It was affecting my stepson too, he was misbehaving at school, and I was called in to see the teachers on a regular basis. I was not receiving tax credits or child benefit for over a year. I tried to go back to work but because I was signed off, but the company could not take me back.
When I went to get help from REACH, I was not in a place where I could open up. I just didn’t believe that anyone can really help me apart from giving me food boxes and money to top up my gas and electricity. The advisers would always ask me questions, but I refused to answer. However, one day, an adviser was very concerned with the frequency of my visits for help. She sat down and asked me what was going on and I opened up, I was upset, about my debts, my rent arrears and had no money coming in except my SSP.
They made a debt appointment for me and it was onwards and upwards from then on. It took a while, but REACH not only got my tax credits and child benefit up and running, but they also managed to get all our benefits backdated for over a year. Maternity benefit started; my debts on a more manageable payment plan, with some of them paid up due to my backdated benefits, the bailiffs (enforcement officers) backed off, council tax and housing benefits was put in place and my faith was restored. The advisers, with our support workers, even managed to get a better house for my family that was dry and clean. My baby daughter arrived in October 2015. I started to feel better and volunteered for REACH’s Furniture Bank while I looked for employment. It was felt good to give something back after all the help I had received.
Within a few weeks though, I found full time employment. I couldn’t believe how good our lives were. In fact, I managed to find 3 jobs but it was too much so I had to give one of them up to spend time with my family.
Everything has changed so much now, we have our three children together, and my partner and I are talking. We want to give the children the best life we can. I feel now that I have employment, I can support my family. My partner and I don’t want to give up on each other and we have a talk if we have something to discuss.
Coming to REACH has made a big difference; no one has helped us like you have.”