Media Response: Couple forced to live in car due to debt

Perennial’s Director of Services, Sheila Thomson, has responded to media reports published over the past two days of a couple forced to live in their car due to payday loan debt spiralling out of control. As an ex-landscaper (who lost his job due to illness), Philip Sherlock could be eligible for help from Perennial and we would urge him or his wife to contact us in the strictest confidence and completely free of charge.

The Telegraph published the story yesterday (18 March 2015). You can read it here

ITV Good Morning Britain featured the couple and their situation on the programme broadcast this morning (19 March 2015). You can read about it here

Here is our letter of response in full:

Dear Sir,

As Director of Services at the UK’s only charity for all horticulturists in crisis, I would like to urge Philip and Victoria Sherlock to contact one of my team as soon as possible. Their situation is, unfortunately, not unusual and over the last two years we have found that payday loans have caused a significant number of horticulturists to fall into debt. This, coupled with a growing trend towards zero hours contracts for low-paid horticulturists, concerns us greatly.

Perennial is an occupational charity that helps all horticulturists, both of working age and retired. We provide direct financial assistance, help with statutory benefits, accessing and funding training and a range of additional advice and support services. In 2014, Perennial assisted its clients in accessing over £1.43million in direct financial help. Our debt advice service saw an 8% increase in clients in 2014 compared to the previous year and cases are becoming ever more complex. The debt advice team helped clients who had a total of over £1.65million in debt in 2014 – over £49,000 of that debt was written off. Many of our clients have accrued debt as a result of illness or accident, and then go on to face multiple additional problems including unemployment, bankruptcy or eviction, as in the case of Philip and Victoria Sherlock, as debts spiral out of control.

All our help is given free of charge and in the strictest confidence. We fully respect and appreciate the need for discretion and care when someone comes to us for help and we work with a range of occupational charities and voluntary and statutory agencies, to reach horticulturists in need of our help.

In addition to urging the couple featured in your article to get in touch, we would urge your readers that should they know of a horticulturist – working or retired – who is struggling, or if they themselves are horticulturists and need some help or advice, to contact us on 0800 093 8543 in confidence or email us on

With thanks,

Sheila Thomson

Director of Services

Perennial (formerly Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society)