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Hidden issues: debt

Debt imageSometimes it's hard to admit we're not coping, because we think everyone else is doing fine. With 6 out of 10 carers having faced debt because of their caring role, it's time to break the silence. 

When caring affects families, it’s all too easy for carers to face financial pressures and crisis as they are often forced to reduce hours, or give up work and face the extra costs of disability and ill health.

Our recent Caring and Family Finances Inquiry report showed the costs faced by families with caring responsibilities – including higher spending on typical household costs such as utilities, food and transport as well as the costs of disability-related spending, from care services and equipment to cleaning products and home adaptations.

These pressures are all the harder given the cuts to services and benefits that many families are experiencing. This can result in lasting financial hardship and debt, often made worse by delays in getting the right financial support and advice.

Debt graphic


Norman's story

Quote 1

Norman polaroid 2I had a well-paid job in a major IT company. My wife was working too – we owned our own home and could go on holiday every year, eat out a couple of times a month and have a reasonably comfortable lifestyle.

When my wife’s MS advanced much more quickly than we’d expected, she had to give up work. In order for me to keep my job, we had to start buying in significant amounts of care. I contacted social services to ask for help, but nothing was forthcoming.

My plan was to get to the age of 60, which was only a couple of years away, and then retire on a decent pension and everything would be OK.

Then a few things happened which weren’t part of the plan.

I’d borrowed money against our house in order to cover the care costs, which were weighing in at around half my salary. Essentially, I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t cope. It was only supposed to be a stop-gap – I was fully expecting to get a bonus from a big IT project I was working on. When the contract went south suddenly, I had no way to pay back that loan.

My wife’s health deteriorated further and she started to need more help. We couldn’t have afforded night-time care even if we’d wanted to – but after a while I started to struggle. Eventually I collapsed under the strain of worrying about work, money and my wife’s health, on top of the physical exhaustion. My own health hit the floor and I ended up in hospital.

At the hospital, I sought advice about work-life balance. My plan shifted to early retirement topped up with some consultancy work to make ends meet. This was perfectly achievable.

Then my wife had an accident and needed 24-hour care. When she started to recover and was well enough for me to look for work again, I had an accident myself and was laid up for a while.

Before I knew it, I was a 58-year-old in a recession who’d been out of work for over a year in a fast-moving industry. I couldn’t make it work. I went to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau to go through the finances, which resulted in signing up to a mortgage rescue scheme. That didn’t keep a couple of credit card companies at bay though. This affected my credit rating which in turn made it even more difficult to find work.

Once we’d run out of money, suddenly all the help seemed to become available and we were able to get things back under control. It’s not back to how it was before, by any means. We don’t own our house, we don’t really go on holiday, we rarely eat out. But we don’t owe anything and we make ends meet.

I felt humiliated more than anything else, that it could all come unglued as easily as it did. And frustrated. A little bit of help early on could have made all the difference. Quote 2


David Rodger Debt Advice Foundation

Expert comment

David Rodger, chief executive of national charity Debt Advice Foundation, said:

Quote 1If you have outstanding debts, you must do something about it now – delays will only make things much worse. People often don’t know where to start, so the best way is simply to pick up the phone to a debt charity. You can call us on 0800 043 40 50, for example.

A charity debt adviser will help you make a financial statement, explain about priority debts and give you clear options. They will advise on the best way forward and how to communicate with creditors.

But you have to take the first step – ask for help, and take the first step to recovery.Quote 2


Get help

If you are struggling with your debts, contact a free, independent debt advice charity such as Debt Advice Foundation.

Their helpline is 0800 043 40 50 or you can go to debtadvicefoundation.org

Other help


This article first appeared in Caring magazine issue 34. Packed full of news, information and features on all things caring, the magazine is out four times a year for Carers UK members. To get your copy, join our supportive community and be part of our movement for change.

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