This is a long blog that some of you may not choose to read, I can understand that but I make no apologies for writing it as a very brave lady has given me permission to share her story in the hope that we can help others.
In May 2011 we received a referral from Turn2Us asking if we would help a young couple with some bills, the client (we will call him Simon) had been a tree surgeon for ten years and was ill and unable to work.
We contacted Lisa (aged 30) who was very hesitant as she didn't really know what to expect and was surprised that we wanted to visit their home just for a grant to pay some bills but a visit was agreed. Fifteen minutes in to that first meeting Simon received a phone call from the hospital that had been treating him with chemotherapy for a very rare childhood leukaemia with devestating news, the chemotherapy wasn't working and the only other option was a bone marrow transplant, he was to return to hospital that same day.
I felt so in the way that day, I collected up a load of benefits paperwork and overdue bills and reassured the couple that if they needed to pay for childcare for their 3 year old son (Ryan) we would meet the cost and I left them to digest the news in private.
Without the benefit of any client involvement we started to plough through the paperwork and it quickly became clear that there were Council Tax arrears with Court Action pending, in light of the circumstances we paid the arrears and with the family in crisis we ploughed on putting debt payments on hold, chasing Disability Living allowance and disputing an incorrect Employment & Support Allowance assessment.
Keeping in touch with Lisa by email early in the morning and very late at night we started to get a few things sorted and Lisa was able to concentrate on Simon, Ryan and her 16 year old step son Joe.
In July 2011 the cancer spread to Simon's brain and Lisa contacted to tell us that he had died in hospital, he was 39 years old. His death was sudden & unexpected and she didn't know where to turn. Two days after the funeral we visited Lisa and set about helping her complete all of the neccessary paperwork, our debt team contacted Simon's creditors to get his debts written off and we helped with claims for widowed parents allowance, bereavement payment, social fund funeral payment and tax Credits and contacting all of the utilities etc that needed to be informed. We helped towards the funeral costs and a grant was paid from our Childrens fund to help with additional childcare costs in respect of Ryan.
The Employment & Support Allowance claim was reassessed and Lisa received £1,300 in back pay and we helped with probate and transfer of ownership as the flat had belonged solely to Simon. Just as things seemed to be getting sorted our debt manager received a call from an IVA administrator dealing with Lisa's debts to say that as Lisa had debts that were under a court order she may now be forced to sell her newly inherited flat to pay her creditors. Anxious that Lisa did not hear this directly from the courts, our Casework Manager and our debt Manager visited her to explain what we had learned and to discuss how she wished to proceed.
With Lisa's permission our debt Manager asked the IVA administrator to contact the creditors and ask for the debts to be written off, a very brave move! A conference call was arranged and our debt manager was with Lisa whilst she answered the creditors questions, there was an anxious wait for the response but happily the creditors were unanomymous in agreeing to a total write off securing the roof over her head for Lisa and her children.
Ryan now receives a regular annuity from our Children's fund so that he doesn't have to miss out on the things his friends have and Lisa is still receiving face to face support from our Casework team. The following is an extract from Lisa's emailed response to my request to use her story to raise awareness of Perennial's services:
I am more than happy to help. Please do use my case. You have helped me and my family so much over the last couple of years and still continue to do so and I am truly thankful. Without your help, I don't think I would still be living here and moving forward without the help. I know that there are many of people out there that need the kind of help that you offer and if my case helps somebody else to receive help, support and understanding then that is great. The work you do is fantastic, and looking back I am glad it was not a one off grant! The time and energy you put in is huge and I would never be able to thank you enough.
Please don't let Lisa's bravery go to waste, please let others in the business know the range of issues that we help with and if you still aren't sure call me I am happy to discuss with whoever, whenever. Thanks for reading this and for your support of Phils mowerthon in aid of our charity.
Lindsey Churchill 01275 817924/ 07813 148810
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