‘Debt counselling charity saved my life – and now I’m helping others’

Linda DePellette, left, with Lisa Garwood
Linda DePellette, left, with Lisa Garwood
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A woman who endured 15 years of misery struggling to repay debts following the breakdown of her marriage is urging people worried about their finances to seek help.

Linda DePellette’s world was turned upside in 1997 when her husband announced he was leaving her for another woman.

The shock news also meant Linda had to quit her job – because she worked in a factory near Uppingham, couldn’t drive, and relied on her husband, who worked nearby, giving her a lift.

Despite her husband promising to sort out the mortgage, a paperwork error made when the property was originally purchased meant Linda was held personally liable for around £13,000 worth of payments and interest charges.

Pleas for help to the mortgage provider went unanswered and for years she struggled by on benefits, attempting to cover her outgoings and pay off some of the money she owed.

A breakdown, anti-depressants and thoughts of suicide followed before Linda stumbled across an organisation called Christians Against Poverty (CAP) – which she credits with both saving and transforming her life.

Linda, 49, of New Cross Road, Stamford, said: “I’d really hit rock bottom and couldn’t see a way out.

“I was robbing Peter to pay Paul and both were skint. It had made me very ill and I really didn’t know what to do.

“But one day I was sitting in tears opposite a housing officer from South Kesteven District Council and he handed me a business card for CAP.

“Although it took me a couple of weeks to make that first phone call, that was the moment my life changed for the better.”

CAP helps thousands of people across the country every year with free debt help, job clubs and money courses.

Services are available to all regardless of religion, race, nationality, age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability.

Linda was put in touch with CAP staff in Stamford and describes debt coach Lisa Garwood, who was the first CAP representative to walk through her door, as her ‘angel’.

Linda said: “I’ll never forget that day. Just being able to finally share all of my problems and worries with someone who could help me deal with the root causes was amazing.

“I knew it would be a long process, but I was so happy we had got the ball rolling.”

CAP does not pay off it clients debts, but instead liaises with those owed money to work out repayment plans.

Sometimes, these result in the debt being cleared, and sometimes clients have to go through a bankruptcy process, as Linda did.

She said: “When CAP started helping, they were dealing with debt collectors for me. After years of being chased by phone, letter and in person all of that stress was taken away.

“It wasn’t easy, because CAP set me a budget which I had to stick to, and there’s no point seeking help unless you are willing to do that.

“But I knew it was the right thing to do. When declared bankrupt I felt like shouting it from the rooftops because I knew I could start my life again.”

Linda, who has a 13-year-old daughter, suffers from a range of health problems including diabetes and a heart condition which make work difficult. But having had her life turned around by CAP she was determined to give something back and now helps to run a CAP job club at Christ Church, in Green Lane, Stamford. She also does voluntary work with the elderly and edits a church magazine.

She said: “I’m living proof that there’s always hope. Help is out there, you just need to know where to find it.

“CAP saved my life – without it I probably wouldn’t be here and I’d urge anyone who has money problems like I did to pick up the phone and call today.”

CAP debt centre manager Simon Jary works with clients from Stamford, Bourne, the Deepings, Oakham and Oundle. He said: “Linda knows from personal experience that CAP can and will help people who feel they have no way out.

“We are here ready and waiting to help. You don’t have to be a Christian – we help everybody.

“No matter how bad it seems, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

n For debt management advice, or job club support, call CAP on 0800 328 0006.