A day in the life of a Mental Health Breathing Space debt adviser
I started my journey in debt advice 10 months ago as a trainee Mental Health and Money Adviser leaving my public sector employer of 17 years to pursue a career in advice work. Since I joined I have also had the opportunity to work on the new government-led Mental Health Breathing Space initiative funded by the Money and Pensions Service.
This new scheme allows us to apply breathing space for as long as the client is in crisis treatment, where creditors are legally obliged to stop any communication or enforcement with the client. In addition to this, the rewards of working with a mental health charity like Rethink Mental Illness have exceeded my expectations as they’ve been supportive, knowledgeable and flexible. My role allows me to support clients to resolve debt issues and further help them with their mental health, empowering them to live the best life they can.
"No day is the same and every client has their own story to tell. Being in a client-led advice role has been satisfying and inspiring."
I start my day by checking my emails and our customer correspondence systems for any emergency issues and pick them up.
I usually have 4 appointments a week with new clients and we structure our initial calls so that we deal with the emergency issues presented by the client first, and establish their circumstances to start to adapt or advice appropriately. I recall once a case where the client had no water supply and I got that back running straight away!
I have also applied for Trust funds successfully to help clients reduce their gas and electricity arrears, which makes such a difference to our clients. From supporting them with benefits and reducing their debts, clients are always thankful for our support and it makes me feel I’m doing something right!
I have a client who suffers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and I am currently working with her to appeal against a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) decision. I have already successfully written off her overdraft and she stated how relieved she was.
Doing casework enables us to liaise and negotiate with creditors and various stakeholders on behalf of the client to achieve the best debt solution for them, and you always learn new skills and knowledge along the way. I am currently working with a client on a repayment plan on her mortgage and other priority debts. She’s been going through a difficult time and with her agreement on the repayment plan, I’m now able to start negotiating with creditors.
"I’m looking forward to continuing our work and supporting clients through their difficulties, providing debt advice and bringing the NHS on board with this new scheme."
Most of our clients are on low income and/or benefits, and recently a few of my clients have come out of the new Mental Health Breathing Space scheme and are now seeking debt advice.
I’m now working with a client with support from family to offer a full and final settlement as he wishes to start afresh. He also wanted to phase himself back to work and has managed this. I always check in that they are still receiving support with their mental health too.
My manager completes quality management checks on random cases of my work on a fortnightly basis. The feedback was a great way to see what I was doing right and what I could have done better. For me it’s been a great way to build on my experience, ensure I am using the systems efficiently and build on my debt knowledge.
We also complete a client survey with every case to ensure that the services we are providing are improving situations for our clients.
I’ve attended various training and I’m also part of a Policy Forum where I can raise any issues I’ve faced, e.g. where bailiffs clamped a disabled client’s car.
It’s a great way to share your views and experiences, and hopefully make a change. The policy team are constantly working with various stakeholders and government to address local or national issues.
I’m looking forward to continuing our work and supporting clients through their difficulties, providing debt advice and bringing the NHS on board with this new scheme.
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