March’s skillshare: Avoiding Debt
What is debt?
Citizens Advice has named debt ‘the issue to look out for in 2023’. Ex-Ambassador Katrina and current Ambassador Emma put together a skillshare drawing on Katrina’s lived experience of debt, due to an error caused by the benefit system.
Katrina described debt as “spilling out of control”. She said she didn’t know where to go for advice. “I was getting letters from various people that I was in arrears with them, but I didn’t know how to deal with it.” She said it was 9 months of “anxiety, stress and worry. I had to go to the food bank for the first time” due to incorrect benefits. Katrina said that even when her benefits were eventually backdated and she was able to pay off her debt, it didn’t erase the anxiety and stress of the months of debt she had been through.
Remember that get2gether are now registered with Edinburgh Food Project to issue food bank vouchers. Give us a shout on email@example.com or 07858 318 643 for a referral or more information!
It is very important that we are talking about debt – a get2gether member at Monday Magic said “financial debt is such an important part of our lives, especially with the rising costs of living.” It is crucial that people with disabilities, amongst other marginalised communities, have access to accessible information, resources and services in their local areas.
You can find get2gether’s resources on our website under ‘Our Response to the cost of living crisis’. We are always looking for handy tips, tricks, community partnerships and good food deals in your local area – give us a shout if you find anything great.
Who can you turn to for support if you get into debt?
Katrina said that her first point of contact was to confide in a friend that she had made at get2gether. Her friend suggested the welfare team that could help and free benefit advisors linked in with her support. Katrina described it as a huge relief confiding in and getting support from Action Group as well as her friends and family as it meant “I didn’t have to struggle alone.”
Katrina also said that she worked with Citizens Advice – who helped with setting up direct debits and sorting a payment plan. These services are crucial in breaking down complicated language that stands in the way of life-changing payments for people.
Katrina is sadly not alone in her example of poverty due to structural barriers, not personal choices. Another member Natalie said that they ask their support to read their letters “because a lot of times I don’t understand what they are for or what they mean.” Natalie shared their experience of ending up in debt. They said “I didn’t understand how a bank account worked, they signed me up to an account with a monthly charge and didn’t understand the letters that came through so I wouldn’t open letters. I was very bad at speaking up for myself so when phone companies would call to sign you up to contracts I wasn’t able to say no and ended up with about 5 different phone contracts at the same time that I couldn’t afford to pay for.” Natalie’s support has been vital in working together to understand how these systems work.
Natalie says that their 3 tips in avoiding debt are:
- Not to keep it to yourself and ask for help
- Try not let letters pile up/ignore them and if you don’t understand, ask someone else to read it and help go over it
- Online banking is good because it helps you actually see what comes in and out
What can help to avoid debt?
In acknowledging structural issues, we can also give space to personal responsibility and how people can play their part with their own money – a topic that historically people with disabilities have had inadequate education.
“i don’t have a budget but it’s something i need to learn”
Monday Magic discussed money budgeting skills – using online banking to track incomings and outgoings. Member Josh talked about how he uses cash instead of cards so he can physically track his money. There was conversation around shopping around for lower prices, using bigger supermarkets, avoiding branded products, making a list and only buying what you need, sticking to recipes.
“I don’t even know what debt means” – Monday Magic is a consistent online weekly space for people to bring what is current to them and their communities. It is chaired by Ambassadors and it is led and owned by our members. Big topics are discussed at Monday Magic, as one member said “the fact that we are talking about debt as a community is really positive.” Join the conversation every Monday on zoom, 2-3pm!