At the age of just 29 Katy North has had a lot to deal with.
The Sawley mum, who now has three young boys under the age of six, found herself and her family in financial crisis and in urgent need of help when her army husband Christopher, 29, returned from Afghanistan in 2009.
He was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder that year and found himself unable to work.
It should have been a happy time for the couple who were just about to have their first child, but they found themselves at crisis point, physically, emotionally and financially in the five years that followed .
Katy explained: “At the beginning of November something happened. Chris heard a loud noise and went crazy. Lewis, was screaming because he didn’t know what daddy was doing.”
They had their second son in 2010 and were finding it increasingly difficult to put food in on the table. They were in debt with doorstep lenders and could not pay household bills. Katy found herself relying on food banks but was back to square one once she had used it the maximum number of three times.
The Royal British Legion arranged for compensation for Chris but with it came a blow - she realised that by being awarded the compensation – their other welfare support may be stopped.
“I couldn’t believe that after the fight we’d had to receive financial help we were now faced being penalised and losing other support because we’d got it,” she said.
The impact on the family was great and they faced struggles to get help and support they were entitled to. The pressures were affecting her husband’s health – and her own. Katy sought help from her local Citizens Advice Derbyshire Districts which pointed her in the right direction for how to get help.
“We had been in a lot of trouble with money. Chris thought he was OK to work but would then go into a depression and not be able to leave the house. I went to citizens advice to see if there was any help they could give us and they showed me which gateways to follow.”
Eventually things got so desperate that, on the advice of the CAB, they had to declare themselves bankrupt.
Katy said: “It has taken us five years to get where we are now. We lost out first rented house because of arrears in 2011 and were given emergency housing which we couldn’t call home.
“We then did a mutual exchange on the house and have never looked back.”
Now after many years of fighting for support, the family is going from strength to strength and she wants to help people in Ilkeston in the way that Citizens Advice have helped her and her husband.
Katy started as a volunteer at the Ilkeston CAB, based in the Albion Leisure Centre, three weeks ago.
“The day I walked in here I was so excited to do everything’, she said ‘I want to reassure people that as much as they think they are in the worst place ever they will get out of it, they just need to ask for help.
“My advice to war veterans is ‘you’ve got to ask for help’. I have had so much support since coming here and hope to eventually get a job here.
“ They have helped me so much, it’s my turn to give something back.”
Katy comes from a army family. Her father had a 25 year army career and when she met her husband, while working in a phone shop, he was on leave from his unit, the Royal Artillay Fourth Regiment.
Derbyshire Districts Citizens Advice Bureau has offices in Ilkeston, Heanor, Ripley, Matlock and the High Peak.
They run specialised advice outreach sessions in nearly all GP surgeries and all children’s centres in the county. Call 0844 375 2712 from a landline or 0300 456 8390 from a mobile, Monday to Friday, 9.30am and 4pm.