Patrick first started volunteering at Kensington Community Learning Centre (KCLC) in order to develop new skills after becoming unemployed. It was this unemployment that led to Patrick getting into an increasing amount of debt.
Patrick explains: “When I was in full-time employment, I was on a reasonably good wage. Like many people, I had credit cards and various other debts. When I became unemployed, I thought ‘it’s not going to be for long’ so I took out payday loans, which of course, only made it worse and after not very long the situation got quite serious.
“I was already at a low ebb mentally, and I started getting letters and phone calls about debt. It started to feel very claustrophobic, like people were constantly chasing. Getting the help I needed was a big relief.
“Because I was volunteering here, I was able to access the Money My Way resources on the Learn My Way website and learned about things like Debt Recovery Orders (DROs). I was able to find out how to apply for one of these and thankfully, I’ve now been able to pay it off in full.”
Patrick’s experiences mean he’s now in the perfect position to help others who are struggling with similar situations. He says: “These sorts of problems are more common than I’d like them to be. Kensington isn’t a wealthy area. There are lots of people on benefits and there are lots of problems that can come with benefits, so we do get people coming here in a state of panic.
“However, being able to help those people, give advice and find solutions, is really rewarding. As well as things like DROs, I’ve also helped people access grants to pay for things like new boilers, find bank accounts that don’t require a credit check - helping them at crisis points. It’s a real feel-good thing, on top of just being able to be useful.”
Patrick’s advice for others finding themselves worrying about money and struggling with debt is simple: “I’d just say find someone who can help. Help is out there but if you’re the person in the middle of those issues, it’s really hard to think straight, and easy to go into panic mode - I know because it’s what happened to me.”
“You need someone else there to help you and if you can find somewhere like KCLC or another Online Centre, someone will be able to guide you through. They’ll keep calm, get you a cup of coffee, talk through everything and then sit with you in front of a computer and help you find the support you need.
“Computers know all! There’s some nonsense on there but if you know where to look there’s an awful lot that can help too. That’s what we do here and that’s what helped me.
“To be honest, I don’t like to think about what would have happened if I hadn’t have got the help I needed. I wasn’t in a great place anyway so I’m sure getting harassed by debt collectors would have sent me spiralling somewhere else. I suppose the best way of putting it is that I wouldn’t be where I am now. KCLC and the help I received here was a lifesaver.”
Kensington Community Learning Centre is a member of the Online Centres Network. They were part of the Money My Way programme, delivered by Good Things Foundation and funded by Comic Relief.