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The situation

Nationally

Over 100,000 people in the UK attempt suicide every year due to debt (Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, 2018). It’s not an easy topic to discuss, but it’s a serious issue that any of us can experience. We’re addressing this challenge by tackling the debt issue, while our partner, Bath Mind, deals with the mental wellbeing aspect for people in our community.

The ramifications of debt can be overwhelming, dominating your every thought, creating and compounding problems for individuals and families, pushing them into a downward spiral of increasing debt and mental health problems. Relationship breakdowns, job losses or threats of eviction and legal action are all common consequences. The worst thing is that it can often occur through no fault of your own, like when a disability benefit is suddenly reduced.

Find out how Mental Health and Financial Problems feed off each other (Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, 2019).

Our community

Many people associate Bath and North East Somerset with opulence, but the truth is that Bath is home to some of the most deprived areas in the UK and the district has a suicide rate above the national average.

The red circle on the map below shows that people’s life expectancy in Twerton and Whiteway (two disadvantaged areas of Bath) is 9 years shorter than people living around the prestigious Royal Crescent. For at least a decade, Twerton has been in the top 10% of the most deprived areas in the UK. The highest proportion of our debt clients live in Twerton and 35% of the children in the area are living in poverty.

A map of the life expectancy around Bath

The Life Expectancy Bus Route Map (Male life expectancy by income deprivation quintile 2011-13)

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Why do we need this funding?

We want to improve the lives of people living in our community.

Our partner organisation Bath Mind provides information and activities to help people with their negative mental health issues. We want to help these vulnerable people by dealing with their debt, a cause of negative mental health issues. To do this we need to employ a debt specialist to work two days per week, helping 75 more people per year with their debt problems, alleviating their stress and worry.

The number of vulnerable people requiring help with debt is pushing our service to breaking point and we desperately need a specialist if we’re going to meet this challenge of preventing people from spiraling into poor mental states and worse, taking their own lives.

We have offices with which to deliver this service. We have many vulnerable people who need the service. We just need the funding to make it happen.

What does a serious debt case look like?

Often people will arrive distraught and crying, not knowing what to do and carrying a bag of letters that they’ve been too afraid to open.

A bag of unopened letters in a debt case

Due to our structured approach of identifying priority debts, maximizing benefits and reducing unreasonable debts, we’re quickly able to reassure our clients that we will be able to find them a way forward.

The outcome

“I don’t know what we would have done without you.”

“The changes you have made to me and my children’s life by taking away all the stress and worry of the debts has been amazing. I can now cope with situations which I once hid from and was why I got into such a mess, and that is because of all your support and advice and showing me there are people that can help!”

This is the positive mental and financial impact we created for a mum and her children as we helped them to avoid eviction right before Christmas.

In 2019, we put over £5.5million into the pockets of some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our district.

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Citizens Advice – Bath & North East Somerset

Who are we?

You’ve probably heard of us. You may have even used our service. But you might not be aware that each branch of Citizens Advice is an independent, self-funded charity.

Citizens Advice in Bath in 1939

Our branch has been supporting our community since 1939 (Image copyright Bath In Time, 1939).

Our team

Our current team has over 100 volunteers and 15 members of staff working across 5 offices. Each volunteer receives 26 weeks of training. Our supervisors have years of experience and expert knowledge of how to deal with complex problems.

The team at Citizens Advice - Bath and North East Somerset

What do we do?

We take the worry away from people with overwhelming and complicated problems and show them a path to a solution.

Debt is a tricky area, which is why many charities shy away from it. However, dealing with debt is one of our specialties.

We do this by providing free, confidential, impartial and independent advice. We’re also not afraid to push the bullies back on your behalf if you’ve been mistreated.

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The facts and a final word

We want to do our part in preventing people from reaching the point where they can no longer see a way out.

Recently released research draws a link between Universal Credit and depression and similar findings have been connected with debt and suicides. You can sign a petition here to pressure the government to stop the #DebtThreats by changing legislation.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this project and we appreciate any and all support we receive.

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