Upright Edna Birch, one of Emmerdale’s most beloved characters, is having a crisis. Famous for her hats and her love of dogs, she’s struggling with money worries after the double shock of a burglary and vital vet’s bills for her beloved dog Tootsie.
Too proud to ask for help Edna has struggled on through Christmas but viewers are in agony as they wait to see if Edna can overcome her pride and ask for the assistance she so desperately needs.
Edna is paying Paddy and Rhona for chemotherapy on Tootsie after she worryingly found a lump on her beloved pet. The treatment is expensive and Edna is struggling to keep up with the bills, coupled with cost of the burglary Edna is faced with a financial double whammy.
Unexpected and sudden bills
While her storyline might seem far-fetched, the situation is all too common. We often see people failing into problem debt over unexpected and sudden bills. We also see and hear from people who often spent months if not years hiding their problems from friends and relatives, too proud to ask for debt help.
Edna’s close friends including Ashley have picked up that something is wrong but Edna clams up when asked if she needs anything. In the dark about her problems her friends don’t know what’s going on.
Admitting to debt
It’s tough to admit to loved ones that we need some assistance; it can be even tougher to admit to ourselves that we can’t go on living in an impossible situation. While Edna has increasingly been cutting herself off from others she now finds that she’s cold, hungry and that the credit card bills are piling up.
The actress who plays Edna, Shirley Stelfox, admits, “Edna needs to open up and be less stubborn. She needs to realise that asking for help is not an admission of failure – it is just circumstance.”
We’ve talked before about there being no stigma to having problem debt but we still see people struggle before they have their lightbulb moment and seek help. We know that some people often take up to a year to seek help even when they know that a problem exists.
Edna’s debt advice
If we could advise Edna we’d tell her that the first step is to put together an accurate income and expenditure budget. The budget should cover all her priority spending including rent, mortgage, housing costs and food for her and Tootsie. Once the vital priority bills are covered we’d then look at what debt solutions would be available to her should she need one.
We can do this online if Edna was still too proud to speak to someone, but if she did want to talk to us she’d find that we never judge anyone. We’re completely aware of the real causes of problem debt.
Soaps often cover stories about debt problems but they rarely mention that debt help from the UK’s largest debt charity can be found online or over the phone. It’s more dramatic to have the character suffer (or to even scare the audience with fictitious burly bailiffs at some point).
We don’t mind a little dramatic licence but we’re also keen to educate the public and dispel any debt myths that soaps sometimes portray. This Emmerdale storyline has so far been realistic, and that’s why we run our TV advert next to the programme, to ensure that if anyone is suffering like Edna that they know where to find free and impartial debt help.