I left school and went straight into a job. They called me a success story. However, getting and keeping a job was almost impossible. The first job I had, I was told on the day that I wasn’t needed anymore. Literally told when I got to work. This was 3 days before being there 2 years, employees got employment benefits after 2 years service with the company.
I got into debt when I was about 18/19 and took out a loan to pay it off. Around the same time I lost my job and became homeless. All the while fees and fines were being added to my debt. I worked as often as possible, sometimes having 3 jobs at the same time to try to cope with costs and repayments.
I broke my spine in 2007 and I found that I couldn’t get work after that. My wife paid off my debt in about 2008 because the constant calls from debt collectors were really getting to me. In 2012 I was awarded a legal settlement of just £17,000 for the accident (something that’s impacted every aspect of my life) and had to pay £6000 back to the government from unemployment benefits. The figure seems to be because my medical records were altered. So the assumption was that I hadn’t injured my spine.
I got my correct diagnosis added to my medical records last year, but 16 plus years after the accident. Also in 2012 my disability benefits were reduced to £22 a week and remained that way for about 8 years. I felt guilty all the time, and felt the pressure of not knowing how to support my family.
I wasn’t going to ask my wife for pocket money so I learned to spend £30-50 a month and basically avoid money. It’s odd admitting this at 45 but I never got the chance to figure out money or really support my family.
I think I was £1800 in debt at 18 and that hounded me for over a decade. I must have paid back the loan, about ten times what the original debts totaled. So this is an area that I do feel like I’m starting from scratch with. However this year I want to figure out a working knowledge of mathematics and taxes so that I can become self employed and earn something for my family.
All our best and love
Ross Fraser and Jeni Dern
Written by – Ross Fraser