I’ve got three kids, and as usual, my finances were not in good shape ahead of Christmas. I’m on a low income so had to put some purchases on a credit card. I have been trying to pay it off but I’m already behind on other bills. I haven’t been able to pay my council tax and I have received payment reminders from my energy provider. What should I do?
First things first, work out how much you owe – make a list of who you need to pay each month and how much. If you don’t have your most recent statements, you can contact your creditors to find out.
Make sure you are getting all the income that you are entitled to. For example, you may be entitled to help with child care, housing costs or school meals.
Create a budget by adding up essential living costs, such as food and housing, and take these away from your income. Any money you have spare can be put towards your debts. Citizens Advice’s budgeting tool, found on its website, can help.
Your council tax, rent or mortgage, and energy are priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. These must be paid first. Separate these and work out how much you owe.
As you’re already in arrears with your council tax, you must act quickly and contact your council to arrange an affordable payment plan. You can also contact your energy supplier to help you sort out a payment plan that works for you. They must help you do this and you can get help from your local Citizens Advice if they don’t. To cut your future bills you should make sure you’re on the best deal you can get. Use a price comparison tool to check.
For further help working out your budget, negotiating with creditors or checking which benefits you’re entitled to, contact your nearest Citizens Advice by phone, or face-to-face.
I’ve had my Universal Credit payments reduced for missing an appointment. I don’t think this is fair as I had a good reason for not being able to attend. Now I am struggling to make ends meet. What should I do?
If you think the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has made a mistake in reducing your payments, you can ask for the decision to be reconsidered.
Contact the department as soon as possible setting out why you disagree with the decision. Make sure to include the date of the decision and your personal information, including your National Insurance number.
You can ask for this reconsideration in your Universal Credit online account, using a form on the government website, in writing or over the phone. Your local Citizens Advice can help you put together this information.
If the DWP does not change its decision you can appeal, although this could involve going to a tribunal and may take some time to be heard.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you can apply for extra help. Ask the DWP for a hardship payment. This is usually a loan and will be deducted from future Universal Credit payments. You can apply for this payment through the Universal Credit helpline, or by asking at your local Jobcentre Plus office.
You may also be able to apply for financial help from your local council. Speak to your local Citizens Advice to see what help is available to you.
I bought a pair of trainers from a private seller on an online marketplace. The advert said they were Asics but when they arrived the branding said Basics. They are clearly not what was advertised, are terrible quality and not fit for purpose. Do I have any rights? What can I do?
If you’re shopping online from an individual seller, the principle of “buyer beware” applies – which means you are purchasing subject to all defects, and the seller does not have to declare problems.
However, the seller must not misrepresent the goods, for example, by claiming they’re a certain popular brand when they are not.
Because your trainers are not as described in the advert, you may have grounds to ask for your money back.
First, try to fix the issue by contacting the seller to explain the problem, let them know your rights and that you would like your money back.
Should this get you nowhere, check to see if the online marketplace has its own protection and disputes resolution system.
Finally, if neither of these work for you, consider making a claim to the court, known as a small claim. There is guidance on how to do this on the Citizens Advice website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk.