Tuesday, 30 October 2018

A week in the life of Citizens Advice North East Derbyshire

At Citizens Advice North East Derbyshire our clients are at the centre of everything we do. They are the reason we exist. We recently spent a week highlighting our work on Twitter using the #CABlive hashtag. We have compiled a report from those tweets which can be viewed here. The report shows the huge breadth of work carried out by our paid and volunteer advisers but it is by no means unusual; every week we help the people of North East Derbyshire and Bolsover Districts with whatever issues they come to us with.

It is worth noting that the work we are able to do is heavily reliant on our volunteers, who give up their time to give back to their community. Between them our volunteers have over 70 years’ worth of experience. Without them we would not be able to do the work we do.

Through the tireless work of our advisers we have so far this year helped our clients to obtain more than £1.5 million and have dealt with almost £5 million worth of debt. We make a massive difference to the lives of our clients.

As well as assisting our clients to resolve the issues which they come to us with, we also campaign for long term change. We are ideally placed to monitor issues which are causing detriment to our clients and the wider population of North East Derbyshire and Bolsover. The roll out of Universal Credit (UC) began to take effect this year and, in addition to helping clients with their claims, we have been closely monitoring the problems with the benefit. We have raised our concerns with our local MPs and with National Citizens Advice who, last year, successfully campaigned to reduce the initial waiting period for payment of UC and who continue to lobby for improvements to the benefit.

In all of our work, our priority is to improve the lives of our clients and the residents of North East Derbyshire and Bolsover.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

NED News Adviceline: Winter 2018

I’ve seen a new property advertised which I’d like to rent and am thinking about putting a holding deposit down. However, the rent is really cheap – should I be worried it’s a scam?

You’re right to be cautious if the rent is a lot cheaper than the market rate. Don’t be hurried into paying a deposit before you view the property and look at your tenancy agreement.

Viewing the property is important – not least so that you can see if it’s as advertised. If the landlord refuses, or is evasive, take this as a possible warning sign they are not legitimate. Even if you have seen the property, it’s still important to check your tenancy agreement carefully.

You should expect your tenancy agreement to give the name and address of the landlord, along with their contact details. Ask for this information to be added if it’s not already included.

If no contract is provided, or information on your landlord is missing, this is another red flag that the letting could be a scam.

Finally, it’s a good idea to see if the landlord is a member of a professional landlord association or is accredited by the local council. Membership isn’t compulsory, but it will mean they are legitimate and will operate to a minimum standard.

Trust your instincts and if in any doubt, don’t part with your money. For further help on identifying possible scams contact your local Citizens Advice, or call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.

A family has moved in to the house next door and is being a nuisance, yelling late at night over a loud television and leaving bin bags strewn over the front of the house. I don’t want to antagonise them in case they become threatening. What can I do?

It’s best to try to resolve problems by speaking with your neighbour, if it’s safe to do so. Explain the effect their behaviour is having and ask them to stop. If the problem continues, keep a record of incidents, which will come in handy if you decide to take the matter further.

A mediator may help you and your neighbour find a solution. If you’re a council or housing association tenant, they may have their own mediator you can use. If not, you’ll need to find one yourself and pay a fee.

Ask your neighbour’s landlord to speak to them on your behalf. If your neighbour lives in social housing, their landlord should have a policy for dealing with antisocial behaviour.

If the landlord can’t help, or you don’t know who it is, your council might be able to. Visit its website for information on the types of complaint it deals with.

If you’ve tried everything but the problem persists, ask for a Community Trigger. The council might work with the police and others to create an action plan. As a last resort, you can go to an ombudsman if you’re unhappy with how your council or social landlord has handled it.

If your neighbour becomes threatening or violent, you should tell the police.

I recently become a carer for my partner who I live with and I can no longer work. We’ve started falling behind on our bills and I’m worried our debts are only going to get worse. I’m on Carer’s Allowance but what else can I do to turn things around?

A change in circumstances can often trigger financial problems. It’s good to see you taking action now as this will stop you from sliding into further debt.

See if you can make any savings on your household bills by switching suppliers, or changing deals. You may be able to get a reduction on your council tax bill – speak to your local authority directly.

Try to boost your income too. You may be able to apply for benefits jointly with your partner to be paid alongside Carers Allowance. This could be Income Support, income-related Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit, depending on where you live.

You should contact your creditors and ask if you can reduce your repayments until you’re back in work. They can also freeze any interest and charges so your debts don’t go up while you pay less. Check to see if you have payment protection insurance to cover giving up work to become a carer as well.

If you’re still struggling to cover your outgoings, it’s important to prioritise paying your household bills like your council tax and rent or mortgage.

For further help working out your budget, negotiating with creditors or checking which benefits you’re entitled to, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.