A day in the life: Sophie Martin, Perennial Debt Adviser
Debt can accumulate quickly and is often a symptom of a bigger problem, rather than a single cause of crisis. Illness, injury or redundancy can all lead to debt and it can be difficult to keep on top of it when trying to cope with everything else. As Perennial’s Debt Advice team expand their offering to clients with an extended weekly ‘advice only’ telephone service, we speak to Sophie Martin, a Debt Adviser at Perennial since 2012, about her role.
How did you first hear about Perennial and what made you apply for the job?
I knew of Perennial from my work as a debt adviser in a Citizens Advice Bureau – I had signposted clients to Perennial in the past. The job interested me because I liked the way Perennial had a casework team and debt team working together to provide a holistic service, and the fact that Perennial helps clients for as long as they need it.
What does a typical day look like for you?
No two days are the same as a debt adviser! Unlike the casework team who are on the road a lot of the time, most of my work is office-based. I cover the south of the country with clients spread out over a large area so it wouldn’t be possible for me to visit every client individually. This means that most of my contact with my clients is via telephone, post and email. This works well in most cases but of course there are clients who need more support so I arrange to visit them in their homes to provide the help they need. Perennial’s debt advice service is free, confidential and independent so we discuss clients’ circumstances in depth and then provide advice that is tailored to their situation. This includes discussing all the options available to discharge their debts, and budgeting advice to hopefully avoid a future reliance on credit. When a client has chosen a strategy to deal with their debts we will help them to put this into practice. This may involve us negotiating with creditors to set up payment arrangements, asking creditors to write off debts, or making applications for insolvency for the client (such as bankruptcy or a Debt Relief Order). We also make applications to other charities to secure grants for clients. We keep in touch with the client throughout the process to give them regular updates on their case and to answer any queries or concerns they may have. What’s great about Perennial’s debt advice service is that every client has a named debt adviser who is responsible for their case, and is given direct contact details for their adviser so they can proactively stay in touch.
As well as my day to day tasks there are also occasions where more in-depth work is necessary, for example defending county court claims for possession of property due to mortgage or rent arrears. In cases where court action is taken, we will attend court with our client to represent them and get the best possible outcome.
Another important aspect of my work is training and networking. It’s vital to keep my knowledge of money advice up to date so I regularly attend training courses and meetings with other advisers, and share this knowledge with the rest of the team. It’s also a great way of letting other agencies know about Perennial so that they can refer clients to us.
Who comes to Perennial for help?
We help many different types of people – my clients are a mixture of retired and working age people, some self-employed, some employed and some unable to work due to illness or injury. We help individuals and families so it’s not uncommon for me to speak to clients’ partners about their debts too.
What aspects of your role give you most satisfaction?
The most rewarding part of my job is the knowledge that the work I do has a definite impact on peoples’ lives. Clients often tell me that they can finally sleep at night knowing that their debt issues are being handled. Often people only seek help when their debts are already at a crisis point and the stress of their situation can be overwhelming. It is hugely rewarding when a client becomes debt free and we can say goodbye knowing that we have given them the tools to move on with their lives free from the burden of debt.