February can be a busy month for UK horticulture trade charity Perennial as winter fuel and credit card bills land, throwing many into a panic about finances. Perennial has seen a year-on-year increase in the number of people using its specialist debt advice service since its launch in 2007. Over 300 people were helped last year, making up just over a quarter of all casework. The service helped write off over £44,000 of debt and secured additional financial help of over £20,000 for clients, many of whom had fallen into debt due to injury at work, long-term illness or unexpected unemployment due to redundancy.
Speaking about the way in which the Debt Advice team helps horticulturists across the UK, Sheila Thomson, Director of Services at Perennial, said:
“The specialist help given by our team of fully trained and dedicated debt advisers is an essential part of our free and confidential service offering at Perennial. Clients facing unmanageable debt repayments tend to not only accumulate more debt, but often present with mental health issues including depression and anxiety that prevent them from tackling the problem. Our advisers are trained to help people understand their financial responsibilities, appropriately access the benefits system and help put manageable financial planning in place.”
“Although demand for all our services continues to increase, we are finding that casework associated with debt is becoming ever more complex as the benefits system becomes more difficult to access and navigate.”
In 2015 Perennial clients received around £1.33 million in direct financial help as a result of the work of the Perennial Services teams. This is a combination of maximising income through statutory benefits, financial help from Perennial and funds raised from other sources such as grant-giving bodies and other charitable organisations.
One of those helped by the charity last year was Peter Mills, a self-employed gardener and broadcaster, who fell into debt after an accident at work left him severely injured and unable to work. He says:
“It was during one of my really low points that I was reminded about Perennial. I knew by this point that I needed help – I was eligible for tax credits and financial help but I couldn’t face filling in the forms and really didn’t know where to start. I made a call and it changed my life.
Our Perennial caseworker seemed to swoop in and sort us out. She was brilliant. She made an immediate financial grant payment to help with debts that had built up, helped with statutory benefits and winter fuel costs and helped us buy our young children a Christmas present. Even after I returned to work, she stayed in touch and made sure we were safe and well.”
You can read more about Peter’s story here.
Perennial continues to support clients for as long as it takes for them to get back on their feet. Every client faces different challenges and therefore the advice, help and support offered is completely tailored to individuals. If you work in or are retired from horticulture and need financial help or debt advice, contact Perennial’s Debt Advice Service free of charge and in complete confidence on 0800 093 8546 (Mon, Tues, Thurs & Fri 8.30am – 5.00pm and Weds 11am – 8.30pm) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more at www.perennial.org.uk/help.
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