The £15+ project: Charlotte's Story

30 September 2019

Partnering with one Leicester organisation, The Zinthiya Trust, Smallwood funding has helped women to equip themselves with skills and tools to change their relationship with money, maximise income and reduce expenditure. At the end of the project, £483,109 was gained in women’s income, £201,365 of debts were managed and £157,696 of debts were written off.

Below, Charlotte, who was supported by the project, shares her story:

“Charlotte (not her real name) was referred to the Smallwood Project by a staff member at a local doorstep lending company. They had become increasingly uncomfortable about Charlotte and felt that she had been exploited.

Charlotte is identified by Social Services as having special educational needs and struggles with low levels of literacy and financial capability. Her vulnerability is quite evident when meeting and talking to her.

At the Zinthiya Trust we made a full evaluation of Charlotte’s circumstances and learnt that she had a number of outstanding debts on several loans. Indeed, we saw that she had increasing loans with the sole purposes of paying-off arrears on previous loans. When our staff asked Charlotte about these loans, she stated that “I was told to get another loan each time I fall into arrears with an existing one, I don’t get them for any other reason.”

In Spring last year Charlotte took out a loan with the lender and the reason given stated “Agent arrears”. After investigating, our staff found of loans of £11,000 that had been taken out/re-financed over a seven-month period. This is despite her income and therefore affordability being reduced considerably due to Charlotte experiencing a reduction in benefits received.

Charlotte had been trapped in an ever-increasing cycle of debt which has caused her stress, anxiety and depression. She was in tears on a daily basis about the financial pressure she was under and even mistakenly believed she could be put in prison for non-payment of these loans. She missed meals, lived in a cold home and kept herself very isolated in order to keep up her payments.

We liaised with Charlotte’s doctor to obtain a letter confirming her level of learning difficulties and provided an official complaint to the doorstep lender based on a failure to meet financial conduct.

This letter and subsequent complaint led to writing off all debts.

Whilst we worked on the debt issue, they applied for BGET emergency credit for her electricity and helped to reduce her household bills by applying for the warm home discount and the Severn Trent Big Difference scheme (reducing water bill by 90%). They helped Charlotte reapply for benefits and she has been added to the priority services register.

Charlotte is now much happier and we are supporting her to continue to learn the skills and tools to manage her finances and grow her confidence in this”.

To find out more about the Zinthiya Trust and their work please visit: https://www.zinthiyatrust.org/