Michael tells us about his job as Helpline Adviser and why he is proud to work for Payplan:

“Every weekday morning I wake up knowing I will be putting smiles on people’s faces. That’s because I work in Payplan’s Helpline department – set up especially for first time callers. My colleagues and I are the first point of contact for people who have found themselves in financial difficulty and are struggling with unsecured debts.

“There are many reasons why someone picks up the phone to make enquiries, they may have unexpected or increased expenditure or be struggling with a change in circumstances.

“Regardless of the reasons for the call we are always here to help. Taking a non-judgemental and empathetic approach is essential in my job; everybody has their own story as to why they are struggling with their finances and it is down to me to make each and every caller feel as comfortable as possible.

Being there for clients

“A recent survey published by the Citizens Advice Bureau found that nearly 3 in 4 (74%) people with debt worries said their mental health was impacted. So it’s no surprise that most people who call Payplan are full of apprehension when making that initial contact with us.

“A few common words and phrases I often hear used when people are describing how they feel include “scared”, “isolated”, “confused”, “anxious”’, “overwhelmed” and “no-one else to turn to”. So I make it a priority when speaking to somebody to try and understand and address those feelings.

“When somebody is feeling vulnerable just having another person to talk to who understands the situation can really help to ease the pressure and start to address the underlying issue.

“Unsecured debts are categorised as ‘non-priority’ outgoings (credit cards, loans, store cards etc.), as opposed to ‘priority’ outgoings, such as food, rent/mortgage, utilities and council tax. When people start to get behind with their ‘priority’ expenditure they often say they have buried their head in the sand. I also hear from clients who have continued to pay ‘non-priority’ outgoings for fear their credit rating being affected but failed to pay ‘priority’ outgoings.

“Defaulting on certain essential payments, such as council tax, can result in bailiff action, which is never a pleasant experience. Helpline advisers are fully trained and know exactly how to react to any threats of bailiff action. That is why it is important to seek expert help as quickly as possible.

Impact of the recession…

“Five years ago many people would never have thought they would be struggling with their finances or be in debt. Unfortunately, due to the current financial climate and the double dip recession, things have happened that most of us just weren’t prepared for. As a result, more and more people are turning to Payplan for help.

“Helpline is open over 70 hours a week. This ensures that our service is as accessible as possible.

“It can take a lot of courage to pick up the telephone and call Payplan, which is something I recognise and offer as much support as I can.

A smile is contagious!

“There is a saying that a smile is one of the most contagious gestures a person can make. Towards the end of the calls from new clients I can often hear a change in their tone of voice. It is like a subconscious sigh of relief and a smile – and that puts a smile on my face too!”