Barnsley couple left in debt after firm collapsed say charity 'saved our lives'

A self-employed couple who racked up £65,000 of debt after their construction firm collapsed are urging others with money worries to seek help.

Sam and Paul Helsby's company, based in Barnsley, went bust last year after the war in Ukraine saw their costs soar and left customers unable to meet the price increases.

Mr Helsby, 45, who had been a joiner for 24 years, began taking on more of the workload to save on contractors' fees but in September last year he had a stroke.

He lost the ability to speak, along with all feeling in the right side of his body for 12 weeks, leaving him unable to work as the bills continued to pile up.

Wife Sam, who did the administration work for the business, said: “Paul had the stroke in September and by November we had got bailiffs coming.

“Really quickly we couldn’t answer the door any more and they sit outside for ages. You feel a bit like a prisoner in your own home."

Paul Helsby had a stroke last year. Credit: ITV News

In a bid to dig themselves out of debt, the couple borrowed money from their children, handed back their phones and cars and used food parcels.

They contacted the Christians Against Poverty (CAP) charity for free debt advice in December and Paul declared himself bankrupt in March.

Paul said: "CAP saved our lives. I was done with everything. It saved our marriage - I could’ve called quits on everything at one point.

"For us it’s made me stand up again and say, 'well alright it failed but I’m still here'."

The charity unveiled its annual client report, which surveyed many of those they have supported, at a conference in Leeds.

The report found that low income was the main contributor of debt, while stating that two years of rising costs have left many households "trapped under the rubble of debt and poverty".

Meanwhile new figures show that inflation slowed to 2.3 percent in April having hit 9.6 percent in October 2022.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) CEO Stewart McCulloch speaking at a conference in Leeds today Credit: ITV News

Stewart McCulloch, CAP's chief executive, said: “The average person buying the average things is going to start feeling relief now and the cost of living crisis ending but we don’t deal with the average person. The average income of a CAP client is half the average and 60 percent are below the poverty line.

“Those who are struggling are struggling more, those who are under water remain under water and that’s what we’re seeing on the ground."

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said the Government prevented 1.3 million people falling into absolute poverty last year.

They added: “We are supporting hard-working families by raising the National Living Wage, cutting taxes and driving down inflation to help their money go further."

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