Chester resident Michael* was not in a good place when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
He was dealing with long-term mental health issues and struggling to pay the bills on his two-bedroom Sanctuary Housing property.
Lockdown only served to make his health worse and Michael ended up being unable to work as a result, which further impacted his financial situation.
It was at this point that Michael, who lives alone, was referred to local charity Pennysmart by his housing officer.
Pennysmart, which receives funding from Sanctuary’s neighbourhood team in Chester, provides money, debt and benefits advice to help people facing poverty.
One of their advisers worked with Michael to make sure he was claiming everything he was entitled to, which was something he had not previously been doing.
This meant his Universal Credit and Council Tax Support weren’t enough to cover basic living costs such as rent and utilities.
But with help from Pennysmart and Sanctuary Michael started to claim Personal Independence Payment and Discretionary Housing Payment.
Michael was also supported to lower his bills by using different energy tariffs and discount schemes.
While efforts to help Michael remain ongoing, real progress has been made.
Sanctuary’s neighbourhood partnership manager, Ria Burns, explained: “Michael still has a couple of outstanding debts but we are currently in the process of making charitable grant applications to clear these for him.
“We are currently awaiting the outcomes to be confirmed but this should place him a much more financially stable position to be able to maintain his rent and other household bills without falling back into arrears.”
Michael said: “I am extremely grateful for the support of Pennysmart and Sanctuary in helping me to sort my finances out.
“It has not been an easy time for me but I feel that I am coming through this episode in my life and am much happier in myself.”