Becky's story

 ‘CABA got in touch with all the debtors, explained what the situation was, and helped me make an agreement about payment plans and what was going to happen.’ 

I’m a financial accountant working for a retail brand making about £35,000 a year. My husband works, but his work is not consistent. It’s not that he can’t get employment, it’s more that he can’t always physically work because he’s unwell. At one point he spent several months in bed. He probably brings in about half of what I do.   

Over the years we’ve learnt to more or less get by on my income, but he had a bad few years and credit cards felt like the only option when there was a gap between what I earnt and what we needed to get by. We spent more than we should have done at times too - takeaways and things, just because we needed a distraction. It’s easy to say ‘stop spending on anything you don’t have to buy’, but sometimes something nice to eat can be the only good point in a day. And my husband’s mental health is such that at times I’ll do anything just to lift his mood.  

When the debt became too much I sold our house and bought another one that cost less so we could pay stuff off. But that was really only a temporary solution because it all happened again. It builds up and up. At one point, I was facing a shortfall of about £500 a month. Whatever I did about the debts, it would just creep back up again.   

Anyway, in all this, I became pregnant and had a lovely baby boy. I only got statutory leave for maternity, so I had to go back to work at 7 months. I didn’t like that at all - leaving a 7-month-old at a nursery was hard, he was by far the youngest there and for me, it didn’t feel like what I wanted to do. But it really felt like the only option.  

At that stage my husband was quite unwell and probably only able to work about a week a month. I was talking to my friend - it’s a lot of pressure, working full-time as a mum, and living with someone with mental health problems, even if you really love the person. And the temptation is to take the burden of the financial worries on my own shoulders, because I know that the pressure of debt actually makes him worse. I told my friend that I was getting further behind with credit card payments every month. Even on a good month, when my partner was working, I was only hitting the minimum payments. My friend explained about CABA, she said ‘call them. They’re really nice and you have nothing to lose.’ 

I thought it over, and then I called on my lunch-break at work. I was in sheer desperation, fighting back the tears. I spoke to an advisor who made me feel so much better. He said ‘Don’t worry. We can help you. We can do something.’ I didn’t know what that might mean at the time, but it was such a relief to have someone listen to me and see how hard things were. And he didn’t judge. 

At that was the beginning of quite a long process of getting across exactly what debts we had and what could be done about them. Anyone in that situation wants to stick their head in the sand, but my advisor was with me every step of the way, showing me how to do it, encouraging me, and helping me believe that it could be sorted out.

how caba helped me

When it was all laid out - loans, cards, overdrafts - it became clear that we were about £50,000 in debt. With no sense of how it was going to be repaid. But my advisor helped me work out a plan. One of things CABA can do is speak to the creditors for you, so for example the interest can be frozen. And the thing is, when you owe these people money, they are always writing to you and texting you - but my advisor was able to get a lot of that to stop too. Basically, CABA got in touch with all the debtors, explained what the situation was, and helped me make an agreement about payment plans and what was going to happen. I think when the creditors know that you have someone like CABA helping you they calm down a bit.  

Having CABA on your side doesn’t mean all your difficulties go away - and defaulting on loans stays on your credit file for years, which can really impact things like your ability to get a mortgage. But you have to face up to your situation and be realistic about what you can do. An accountant can lose their qualification if they go bankrupt, so I knew I had to avoid that at all costs, else I would lose my ability to earn.  

We’ve moved on from this now. I am working steadily and making the reduced payments I’ve agreed. Getting out of debt will be a slow process for us, but I’m so much happier now it all feels under control. My partner is in so much better shape now too - now that we don’t have the threat of bailiffs and bankruptcy hanging over us all the time.  

With CABA, it’s not just one-off help they offer. You can call them whenever you have a difficulty or something to think through. When we needed to spend a bit on keeping our car going, I called CABA and the agreed to support us with a small grant so that we didn’t get into difficulties again. And if I ever get a letter about any of the debts, I can just email it to my advisor and they’ll call me back and help me get my head around whatever needs doing.  

I literally don’t know what I would have done without the debt management advice I got. CABA are so responsive and they explain things so well. You speak to the same person about your case, so you can build up trust and understanding. You do it as a team, and they don’t judge you - there was never any sense that they thought I was doing anything other than my best.  

The only thing I would say is that I wish I had called them earlier. Things were really out of hand by the time I spoke to CABA and I could have saved myself a lot of stress and anxiety if I had asked for help earlier.  

are you eligible for caba's services?

caba supports the wellbeing of past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and their spouses, partners and children up to the age of 25. Our support is free, impartial and strictly confidential. For advice, information and support please click on the button below.

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Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and the family and carers of members and students. 

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
  2. ACA students (ICAEW Provisional Members) who are either an active student or have been an active student within the last three years are eligible for caba's services 
  3. Past and present staff members of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's services for life, even if you leave either organisation. Please note, for former employees, our financial support is only available to those who have had five years continuous employment with either organisation 
  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
    1. spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner 
    2. widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    3. divorced spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

Are your services means-tested?

If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means-tested. 

I’m an accountant, but not a member of ICAEW, can you still help?

Unfortunately not. We only support past and present ICAEW members, their carers and their families. If we are unable to support you, where possible we will point you to help elsewhere.

caba has supported me in the past; can I receive support from caba again?

We understand that circumstances change. If we’ve helped you in the past there’s no reason why we can’t help you again. You can contact us at any time. Please call us if you need our help.

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