Further help with debt and money advice issues
The Welfare Rights Service can assist you with most aspects of debt.
- Resolve any emergency issues i.e. bailiffs, court action
- Advocate on your behalf by contacting your creditors to make repayment arrangements.
- We will complete a financial statement to assess your options and provide budgeting advice where appropriate.
- We can provide you with advice and information to help you decide on your best long term options to resolve your debt problems i.e. Debt relief Orders, Bankruptcy and help you make the applications.
If you would like Debt Advice from us then contact us on: 0115 915 1355 where we will have an initial discussion with you and then if necessary make an appointment for a longer meeting with an advisor.
We have also produced some debt information and useful links that you may find useful prior to seeking advice, if you decide to manage your debt issues yourself or to improve your situation before you seek advice. Some of the information links provided are external to the Nottingham City Welfare Rights service so any advice contained is the responsibility of the website owners and their organisations.
Help setting a budget
We realise that setting and keeping to a budget is difficult especially when you are on a low income or your income changes due to issues beyond your control such as changes to your benefits or unexpected illness.
However, it may help you feel more in control of your finances if you complete a budget sheet showing your income and expenditure. You may feel anxious about this but it will help you to make clear decisions on the best way to deal with your situation.
You have 2 options here:
- If you are only looking for help to do this yourself there are various websites from national debt agencies to support you with this.
An example of this is are on these pages:
- National Debtline
- Money Advice Service
- The Money Advice Service also have a specific one to help people who are on Universal credit manage their money.
- National Debtline also have a comprehensive self-help guide on dealing with your debts
- If you decide you would rather have some help from us with this then ring us on 0115 9151355 and an adviser will help you. We will also maximise your income by checking you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to.
Prioritise your bills/debts
It is important that you prioritise the right bills/debts to pay first:
Examples of Priority debts/Expenses & remedies available to them if you don’t pay them
Council tax – attachment of earnings, imprisonment, charging order on your owner occupied property
Rent – eviction
Court Fines – Bailiffs, warrant for arrest
TV Licence - bailiff action, warrant for arrest
Magistrates Court Fines – warrant for arrest
Examples of Non Priority debts/expenses
Unsecured loan – none until they have obtained a County Court Judgement
Credit cards - as above
Catalogue debts - as above
Doorstep collection agencies – as above
This can be difficult at times as many Non Priority Creditors can be very demanding for their payments as:
- They send letters that can often look intimidating and make demands for immediate payment.
- They appear to threaten bailiff action – they cannot do this unless they have obtained a County court Judgement.
It is important to make sure that you don’t pay the Non Priority debts/Creditors in preference to your priority creditors.
You may have to cancel your direct debits or standing orders to non-priority creditors if you are unable to pay your priority bills.
Other things to consider
If you have a payday loan you should also check that the agreement does not give a continuous payment authority. You may have not been aware of this when you took the account out but this allows payments to be taken from your debit or credit card. Check with the company and if this is the case cancel this with them and if they won’t contact your bank directly.
A useful webpage describing how to prioritise debts can be found on the Step Change website.
Get help with your Utility Bills – gas, electric, water
The Big Difference Scheme
Seven Trent have a scheme that can reduce your liability to pay water charges by up to 90% depending on your income and expenditure. It also helps in dealing with your water debt as well as your ongoing charges because if you are given the biggest discount then you may have to pay the arrears back at low levels such as £1 per month You need to be aware that an application can show on your credit report so you may wish to consider this before you apply make the application.
You can apply yourself or with the help of an advisor. Details can be found on the Severn Trent website.
Consider switching to a water meter.
You may save money by switching to a water meter. You might want to consider this if your water usage is low, for example if you live alone and the rateable value of your property is high. You will want to be sure that this will benefit you as if you live in a water shortage area you may not be allowed to change back by your supplier. If you want to calculate if this is going to help you there is a calculator from the Consumer Council for Water.
Already have a water meter?
If you are already on a water meter then you may be able to get a reduction if you are in receipt of some benefits and have certain medical conditions that mean you have a high water usage. This is provided by the WaterSure scheme. The details for the Seven Trent scheme can be found on their website.
Energy bills – gas and electric
How to reduce these bills
You may be able to reduce your energy costs by changing supplier or looking at different tariffs with your existing supplier. If you are coming to the end of the fixed term contract then often your prices may increase so make sure you are aware of when you contract ends. Try to arrange a new deal for your energy before this is due to end.
Advice on reducing energy bills can be found locally from Healthy Housing Nottingham. They provide a lot of useful advice on switching supplier, help with insulation, boiler replacement schemes and all aspects of energy supply.
There is also some useful information supplied by the Energy Savings Trust.
If you want advice and further information about changing supplier then this can also be found from Citizens Advice.
Warm Home discount
This is a discount that can be applied in the winter of each year. This is paid as a one off credit and can be claimed when you are on certain eligible benefits. This is due to open on October the 12th for 2020. The details of how the scheme works on the GOV.UK website.
Trust funds for help with Gas, Electric and Water arrears
Most water and energy suppliers have Trust Funds that you can apply to. They make one off grants to clear arrears and sometimes to support ongoing usage. The fund will usually want further details of your circumstances that led to being in debt and will require a financial statement detailing your circumstances. Contact your supplier or check their website. Some available schemes are linked below:
Other ways to reduce your expenditure
Reducing phone and mobile charges
There is some useful links on the Ofcom website to sites that are approved by them and can help consumers make comparisons for their supply of phone, broadband or television services.
You may be eligible for free school meals, help with uniform costs or support with transport costs. The details of how to apply are on the Nottingham City Council’s Pupil Benefits page.
Help with Health costs
The NHS scheme is for those on a low income who do not automatically qualify for free prescriptions by virtue of the benefits that they are on. This can be applied for by completing the HC1 form.
Check your Tax Code, Tax rebates and tax debts
Make sure that you are paying the correct tax. If you are paying emergency tax or your tax code is wrong for some other reason this will have a big impact on your income. You may be also able to claim tax back for previous years if this was incorrect. There is a useful tool on the Money Saving Expert website.
If you are having problems with a tax debt that you believe is not correct then you can get guidance and advice on how to dispute this from the charity TaxAid.
Adult children who live with you
You may wish to consider asking your adult children who live with you to contribute if they can. This can be a difficult conversation but by living with you, they will be paying much less than if they were renting their own property and paying their own bills. They may be happy to contribute and it is certainly something that you should think about if you are struggling to pay your Priority debts/expenses.
If you have responsibility for dependent children and you are separated from your former partner then you may wish to consider the issue of maintenance. Many former couples prefer to have informal arrangements and this can often be the best approach. However, if you are unable to reach an agreement then you can apply to child maintenance service. Details can be found on the GOV.UK website.
National Minimum Wage
Some employers still do not pay the national minimum wage which is against the law. Check what the national minimum wage rates are here.
You may have some Payment Protection Insurance associated with your loan and may have similar products in connection to your mortgage if you are a homeowner. Remember to claim on these and consider any critical illness insurance that you have if you have severe health issues.
Tips for making an insurance claim can be found on the Money Advice Service website.
Tips to make everyday savings
There are a variety of tips available on the Money Saving Expert website. This is updated weekly with various possible money saving ideas.
Reduce the amount of Council tax you have to pay
There are a number of Council Tax discounts that can reduce bills for disability adaptions, those with severe mental impairment and/or if you are treated as a single person household. For a full list of the discounts available and how to apply see these on the Nottingham City Council website.
Claim Council Tax Support
If you are on a low income then you may be able to apply for Council Tax support. This is means tested and the amount of support that you will get will depend on your income. If you want advice on this the best approach will be to call our duty advice line on 0115 9153155, and we can check your eligibility.
It is important to note that Universal Credit does not include help with your council tax. Universal Credit can pay your housing costs but a separate application is needed to the City Council for Council Tax Support. If this is the only benefit that you wish to apply for and want an online check there are several online benefit calculators that you can use on the GOV.UK website.
Check your entitlement to benefits
If you call our duty advice line on 0115 9151355 our advisors will be able to complete a full benefit check for you to see if there is an entitlement to benefits that you haven’t made a claim for. Our advisors can also provide advice about Government schemes such as the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and Job Retention Scheme. They can also check if you would be better off on Universal Credit or remaining on the existing benefit system.
If you are already in receipt of Welfare Benefits and are considering making a new claim for Universal Credit it is important for you to understand the following:
- When you make a new claim for Universal Credit this removes your right to claim benefits under the existing system. This means that any Tax Credits or Housing Benefit that you receive will be replaced by Universal Credit.
- Once the change has been made you cannot return to these benefits even if the change to Universal credits makes you worse off.
- However, there are circumstances where you can amend your existing benefits rather than making a new claim for Universal Credit.
Therefore, if you are considering a claim for Universal Credit we would strongly suggest that you speak to one of our Advisors before making your claim on 0115 9151355. There may be long term impacts with transferring to Universal Credit and our advisors will be able to explain this to you so you can make an informed decision.
If you are not on existing benefits and want only to know the amounts of Universal Credit you may receive then you may wish to use one of the online benefits calculator.
Get help with Childcare costs
There are various government schemes that can help you with the costs of your childcare. A good guide to the types of help available is from LITRG or locally at via the Families’ Information Service:
- If you are claiming Universal Credit then you may be able to claim up to 85 per cent of your childcare costs. The amounts you can receive are a maximum of £646.35 per month for one child or maximum of £1108.04 per month for 2 or more children. A detailed guide can be found on the LITRG/ LASA revenue benefits web page.
- If you are claiming Tax Credits via HMRC you can claim childcare costs of up to 70% of eligible childcare costs up to a maximum of £175 for one child and £300 for two or more children. A comprehensive guide is available on the LITRG/LASA revenue benefits web page.
Consider opening a new bank account
If you have a loan with the same lender that you have a bank account with then the contractual loan amount is often deducted from your account directly. The best advice in these circumstances is to open an account with a different bank that you don’t owe any money to. If you are significantly overdrawn then payments into the account can be swallowed up by bank charges or the effect of the bank taking your full contractual loan amount can leave you with no income.
Remember if you are doing this to close the account formally and to ensure that all your direct debits are transferred to the new account. If you have other debts you may not be able to open an account with an overdraft but banks should offer you a basic bank account and for many of these accounts you can still set up direct debits or standing orders.
There is some useful information about this on the Money Advice Service website.
Reduce deductions from your benefits if they are causing hardship
If you are having debts such as a Budgeting Loan or Benefit Overpayments taken from your benefits then these can be reduced in some cases where you are suffering hardship. You can call the Debt Management Department of the DWP on 0800 916 0647 and they will go through a financial statement with you. If you need further advice/support with this then call us on 0115 9151355.
There is also the option with Universal Credit Advances to defer the payments for up to three months which may allow you time to deal with a short term crisis. You can do this via the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.
Illegal lenders/Loan Sharks
Anyone lending money on a commercial basis has to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to lend money legally. If someone is not authorised they are breaking the law. These lenders are commonly known as loan sharks. There is a national illegal money lending team to help people in this situation. You can report this online and also anonymously. A third party can use the online form to report a loan shark online on your behalf. This team works closely with Police and Local Trading Standards to bring prosecutions against illegal lenders. For further information please visit the Stop Loan Sharks website.
Get help from Charities
There may be grants or other charitable help that you can apply for. A useful website on this is provided by Turn2Us.
Speak to your Creditors
If you are seeking advice often you creditors will agree to hold any further action while you contact an advice agency. It can be difficult to talk to your creditors and you may feel reluctant to do this, however, creditors are expected in their various codes of conduct to treat consumers fairly.
They will often agree to allow you breathing space and stop action while you seek further advice, generally for 30 days. It is always best to speak to your creditors where you can as if you don’t they will be unable to give you this time and may assume if you don’t get in touch with them that you are unwilling rather than unable to pay.
Some guidance on asking for this breathing space is available on the Step Change website.
COVID-19 announcements by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
Find this information on our Commonly Asked Questions web page.