Take charge of debt problems with Help-U

2016-08-31 06:00

IN these tough economic times, many South Africans find it difficult to pay their debt.

Help-U Debt Counsellors is your first point of call to help you to stay resilient through tough economic times. The company was founded in 2009 and has prospered over the years under its chief executive officer, Belinda Driskel, who is also a qualified attorney.

Help-U’s head office is in Bloemfontein with branches in Botshabelo, Pretoria (Gauteng) and East London (Eastern Cape) and has agents across South Africa. Driskel has been the driving force behind it.

The company has a good record in getting people who have fallen on hard times financially back on track.

Driskel’s expertise comes in handy. As an attorney, she has years of experience in debt collection as a debt counsellor, a business rescue practitioner and an administrator.

“As an attorney previously involved with collection of debt, I realised there was a great need in assisting people with their debt,” says Driskel.

“This was, how­ever, never possible before the implementation of the Credit Act. Before the Act was implemented in 2007, the only options were either administration (which was only possible for people whose total outstanding debt was less than R50 000), or sequestration (which was very expensive and out of reach for most people). This encouraged me to attend a course prescribed for debt counsellors and to register as a debt counsellor. I also attended a course and completed the examination to become a business rescue practitioner.”

Her experience as an attorney cut across financial ma­nagement.

“I was and still am an admitted attorney. Before being admitted as an attorney, a person is required to pass the attorneys admission exam and a part of the exam is bookkeeping.”

She has a solid foundation in business, having run a bridal boutique.

“I also had my own business as a student (the bridal boutique) and grew up in a family with both my parents having their own business. As a child, I worked in those businesses during school holidays, which tho­roughly educated me in financial management and all the challenges of owning your own business.”

While a strong business background has been key to her company’s success, Driskel believes honesty has been equally significant.

“I believe that honesty and dedication are fundamental in growing the business.

“I also believe that staff members must be well-educated, trained and that they must have compassion for their clients. Our commitment towards our clients, as well as a qualified and dedicated staff providing the best customer service, are great assets to our business.”

The company began with only two staff members. This number has grown to 17 employees and is still growing.

“The main function of our company is to get people debt-free and to enable them to have sufficient mo­ney to cover their li­ving expenses, as well as to pay off their debt.

“We do this by working out a budget for a client (net salary/income minus living expenses = installment to repay debt) and negotiating a lower installment for repaying the debt with creditors.

“Although it will take longer to repay the debt, the person will be able to pay his or her necessary li­ving expenses and still survive financially. By obtaining a court order, both the consumer and creditor are protected.

“The consumer enjoys full legal protection and no creditor may take further legal action against the consumer or attach the consumer’s assets.

“We also negotiate on the consumer’s behalf and the consumer therefore can refer all correspondence with the creditor to us.”

Good news is that the company also helps people with their financial planning and working out budgets for them.

“This service we do free of charge. Circumstances happen, people get retrenched, develop illnesses, get divorced or, like the farmers, find themselves in circumstances beyond their control, like being affected by drought such as we are currently experiencing.

“It might be that they are just expe­riencing a difficult time with their finances. Sometimes it is beyond their control.”

She says service is rendered to all kinds of people.

“Almost everybody has accounts or debt, no matter what their age, nationality or type of work. This makes our work so interesting. We meet with a broad spectrum of people. Our clients include the unemployed, the uneducated and also highly educated people with huge incomes.

“It is interesting that one moment one helps an unemployed person with a lower education and the next a doctor or a professor. We also do a lot of presentations at companies, informing and educating their workers.”

As to when is it the right time for people to consider debt counselling, she says: “The moment you experience financial difficulty, you should consult us. When you are not able to pay all your accounts on time and do not have money left to maintain your living expenses, you should seek assistance. It is never too late, even if legal action, such as garnishee orders against your salary, have been taken against you. We can still assist you with a remedy to enable you to experience financial relief.”

Currently, the company is managing two major projects per year to raise funds. These are the annual golf day, which will next year be presented for the fourth consecutive year, held during March (the 2017 edition will be on 24 March) and a Christmas party for a Youth Centre (this year’s will be the 5th year ongoing, during November).

“These have inspired us to form the HELP-U FOUNDATION, a non-profit organization helping children’s homes, homes for the elderly and animal shelters. Events like the Christmas party is a great way for our staff members to interact with the children and to make their dreams come true,” says Driskel.

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