A DEBT relief charity once threatened with closure has gone on to win a major national award after a dramatic reversal of fortune.

Two Pennies Money Advice, based in the Angel Centre in Angel Place, Worcester, gives hope to many in dire financial straits but faced an apparently hopeless situation itself in 2016.

The charity, hailed as a guardian ‘angel’ by some vulnerable clients, faced closure within nine months after a major backer pulled the plug on funding.

But, thanks to the hard work of staff and volunteers, the charity has been saved and even has ambitions of expanding.

General manager Karen McConnell put together several grant applications, receiving funding from Comic Relief and the Foyle Foundation which threw a lifeline to the charity.

The charity has an annual turnover of around £26,000 and, last week, was recognised at the FSI Small Charity Big Impact Awards in London. There is even a hope now the charity can expand and support clients closer to home in other parts of Worcestershire.

Mrs McConnell said: “We were amazed to be honest. It’s a national award. It’s really motivating when we have been through such a hard time. We did have to shrink, making one of our staff redundant. Now we are starting to grow again. To go from the point where we were closing to this is absolutely fantastic and incredibly motivating.”

The charity offers free, face-to-face money advice for anyone who has debt problems across Worcestershire. Over the last 18 months the charity has started working with the probation service, providing financial advice to ex-prisoners who have been referred to the charity by their offender manager. Mrs McConnell said its advice helps prevent clients from re-offending.

The charity, founded in 2002, sees on average 65 new people a year on top of existing clients.

Mrs McConnell says there have been instances where the charity has prevented people from becoming homeless, stopped their utilities being disconnected and helped them manage and pay off large debts. One example was an offender who had to repay £13,000 as part of the Proceeds of Crime Act, helping him pay the money back so he did not have to go to jail.

We reported in 2016 how nine out of 10 clients had either mental health problems, learning difficulties or physical disabilities. Some were on the brink of suicide until the charity gave them vital advice and support.

The biggest blow to the charity was the withdrawal of funding by Redditch Borough Council, which had provided £37,000 in a single year before this fell year-on-year to £20,000 in 2015/16 and to zero for 2016/17.