Richard's* Story: Redundancy almost cost him his life
Always self-sufficient and hardworking, manual labourer Richard had never needed to ask for help. But redundancy and lockdown pulled the rug from underneath him – and nearly killed him in the process.
Richard didn’t earn much, but his modest lifestyle meant that he didn’t need to. He loved his work and the social life that went with it.
Then last year, he was made redundant. He signed on with an agency, but they had limited opportunities. When Covid hit, the work dried up completely. Richard didn’t know how to go about applying for benefits – everything was shut, and he optimistically thought it wouldn’t be long before he would find another job. So he started dipping into his savings – but they were quickly depleted.
He cut right back on everything, including buying food, just so he could keep paying his rent. But then he fell behind on that too. Weak and starving, he became so ill that he collapsed and had to be hospitalised for three weeks.
A local charity worker accompanied Richard when he returned home, to check his living conditions were adequate. She helped Richard open his mail… and his real situation immediately became apparent; every envelope contained bad news including an eviction notice from his landlord and final demands from utility companies.
The charity immediately put him in touch with REACH.
Richard was very reluctant to admit that he couldn’t manage. But slowly, he opened up to us and accepted our help. Justine, our Client Relationship Manager, was able to help him apply for Universal Credit. He was going to need a phone to get his benefits sorted, but he had no credit. So we bought him some – not just to help with his benefits, but so he could phone us for help if he needed it.
We then began work on his debts – we got a grant to pay some of his rent arrears. The landlord agreed to put his eviction on hold, on the condition that Richard continued to work with REACH. He did, and we applied for Discretionary Housing Payment to cover the rest of his rent. We’ve also helped him pay off his outstanding council tax and utility bills.
Richard longs to work again – he’s desperate to get off benefits and support himself, and work was also his social network and he misses that too. But his health is still too poor. However, he has managed to pay off his overdraft himself, despite only getting under £500 a month in Universal Credit. We hope his health will soon improve so he can work again, rebuild his social network and truly get his life back on track.
*identifying details changed to protect client family
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