Money Advice Pack PB 1

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1 Money Advice Pack 1

2 Introduction Many people suffer difficulties with money at some time in their lives. Money problems can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as losing your job, illness, decreased income or relationship breakdown. The most important thing to do is to tackle the problem as soon as possible. If you are struggling with your finances this pack can help; on the following pages you will find a whole range of information about managing money, including: Prioritising your debts Maximising your income with benefits and tax credits Working out your personal budget Making debt repayments Paying bills Accessing affordable credit Who to contact Prioritising your debts If you are struggling to keep up with bills and debt repayments contact your creditors straight away and get the name of someone you can go and see, phone or write to. There are two main types of debt that affect individuals - priority and non-priority debts. You should deal with priority debts first as they have the most serious consequences for arrears or non-payment. Priority debts include the items below: Priority debt Rent arrears Mortgage arrears Council tax arrears Gas, electricity, water rates Tax and VAT arrears Maintenance and child support Unpaid magistrates court fines Consequences Court action and fines, difficulty in finding a new home or tenancy, eviction, county court judgements, debt passed onto a debt collection agency Court action and fines, difficulty in finding a new home or repossession. If your mortgage lender repossesses your home, it may be sold for less than its value, leaving you in debt and with an adverse credit history Court action and fines, belongings seized or imprisonment. After imprisonment Council Tax arrears remain an outstanding debt Debt passed onto debt collection agencies, court action, fines or disconnection. The Water Act 1999 prevents water companies disconnecting people in arrears. Interest charged daily on arrears, goods seized, bankruptcy or imprisonment Deductions from wages or benefits, goods seized or imprisonment Imprisonment for non-payment of fine (except for a credit debt) 2

3 Non-priority debts This includes store or credit card debt, unsecured loans, unpaid telephone bills, overdrafts, catalogues and some hire purchase debts. The consequences for non-priority debts are not as severe but will result in difficulty obtaining further or future credit. Hire purchase items like cars or household goods can be repossessed but the debt can remain. Maximising your income There are a number of ways to help increase your income. We will help you find out more information about each area and guide you through the application process. Just speak to a member of our Welfare Benefits Team. If you are working Check that you are being paid at least the minimum wage: 5.93 per hour for workers aged 21 and over, 4.92 per hour for workers aged 18-20, 3.64 per hour for workers aged 16 and per hour for apprentices under 19 or over 19 and in the first year of their apprenticeship. (Correct at October 2010) You may be able to apply for working tax credits if you work 30 hours or more per week (16 hours or more if you have children) contact HMRC tax credit helpline on Regardless of earnings, if you have parental responsibility for a child/children, (including those aged up to 20 if in further education,) you should claim Child Tax Credit - contact HMRC tax credit helpline on In addition to the above, you may still be eligible for certain benefits e.g. housing and council tax benefit - contact us for a free benefits health check If you are not working Contact us for a free benefits health check and we will find out if you are receiving all the benefits you re entitled to If you have parental responsibility for a child/children, (including those aged up to 20 if in further education,) you should claim Child Tax Credit - contact HMRC tax credit helpline on Apply for back to work credits, a job grant, extended benefits or other help if you plan to go back to work and have been claiming benefits for some time Further financial assistance may be available thorough the Social Fund Money advice Creating a personal budget plan is a great way to help you manage your money. Use this form to work out all the money you get in and the money you have to pay out. If you receive Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance do not include these as income, these payments do not need to be declared as they are for specific care needs. 3

4 Household Income Sheet Name: Address: National Insurance no. Date of Birth Occupation Employers Name/address You Your Partner Number of hours worked per week Gross annual income Your wages (exclude overtime unless regular) Your partner s wages (exclude overtime unless regular) Child benefit Please give dates of birth of children Income support Tax credit Incapacity benefit/employment and Support Allowance Other benefits please name Occupational pension State retirement pension Maintenance Income from lodger Irregular income e.g. bonuses Income from assurance policies Income from savings/capital State amount of savings/capital Other Total monthly income 4

5 Household Expenditure Sheet HOUSING Mortgage Mortgage arrears Rent Rent arrears Council Tax Council Tax Arrears TV Licence Water Buildings Insurance Contents Insurance Life Assurance Endowments FUEL Gas Electricity Other HOUSEKEEPING Food Cleaning materials Toiletries Pet food Laundry Newspapers Cigarettes Alcohol TRAVEL Car Tax Car Insurance MOT/Repairs Petrol Congestion Charge Public transport LEISURE Gym/Sports Cinema/Theatre Pubs/clubs Outings SELF EMPLOYED Income Tax NI contributions Professional/Trade subscription Public liability Other EMPLOYED Tools for work Union subscription OTHER Clothing School expenses Childcare Internet TV rental Sky/cable rental Telephone Mobile Prescriptions Dental Optical Furniture Household goods Bank charges Child Maintenance Total monthly expenditure 5

6 Example of personal budget Monthly income Total Monthly Income (A) = Monthly expenditure Total Expenditure (B) = Monthly available income Total available income (A - B) = The total available income of is what you have available to offer to your creditors for debt repayments. Remember to tackle your priority debts first. If you have little or no available income (ie you spend more than you earn) see if you can cut down on any of your expenses but don t cut the essential items like food, gas or electricity. Making debt repayments Calculations You should contact your creditors to find out exactly what you owe. This will help you to accurately calculate what you can afford to pay. Available income x individual debt / total debts = Offer to individual creditor Use our example below as a guide or contact us and we will help you. Available income Monthly available income = Individual debts Gallions rent arrears (priority) = 1325 Offer = Barclaycard = 2341 Offer = HSBC overdraft = 897 Offer = Total debts Total debt = 4563 Total offer = To work out the Gallions rent arrears offer: x 1325 / 4563 =

7 Making arrangements You should contact priority creditors as soon as you have difficulties paying bills. You should make arrangements with priority creditors first before tackling other debts. Rent arrears - Contact our Welfare Benefits Team to arrange an appointment for a free Benefits Health Check or ask us about making a payment arrangement. Council Tax - Contact your local council tax department and make an offer from your available income. Send a copy of your personal budget. Water charges - Contact Thames Water about getting help with your bill or setup a payment plan. Gas and Electricity - Contact your energy supplier to make a payment arrangement and prevent your supply from being cut off. You may be offered a key or card meter but this can be more expensive. Ask about a payment card which you can use to pay at the post office. After making arrangements to pay your priority debts, there may be nothing left to pay your other creditors. If this is the case you should still make contact with your creditors. Send them your personal budget and ask them to hold action until your circumstances improve or offer a token payment of 1 per month to each non-priority creditor. You can also ask creditors to freeze the interest on your debts. SEE EXAMPLE LETTERS OVER... 7

8 EXAMPLE LETTER OFFER TO CREDITOR(S) YOUR ADDRESSS DATE Dear Sirs ACCOUNT NUMBER I am currently experiencing financial difficulties because.. Please find enclosed my personal budget and list of creditors, which explains my current financial situation. I am unable to meet my contractual monthly payment and would ask that you would consider the amount offered on the creditor list. I hope you will give this offer your consideration and that you will freeze interest on the account so that my debt to yourselves does not increase. I will keep you informed of any changes in my circumstances and will write to you in six months with a new personal budget. Should the offer of payment be acceptable, please would you forward a payment book. I thank you for your help in this matter. Yours faithfully Signature 8

9 EXAMPLE LETTER NO OFFER POSSIBLE YOUR ADDRESSS DATE Dear Sirs ACCOUNT NUMBER I am currently experiencing financial difficulties because.. Please find enclosed my personal budget and list of creditors, which explains my current financial situation. As can be seen from the personal budget, I am unable to make any offer of payment at present. I should be grateful if you would be prepared to freeze interest for a period of six months, after which time I will write to you with a new personal budget. Should my circumstances change significantly before this time, I will write to you immediately with a new payment proposal. Thank you for your consideration of this matter. Yours faithfully Signature 9

10 EXAMPLE LETTER 6 MONTH REVIEW YOUR ADDRESSS DATE Dear Sirs ACCOUNT NUMBER Further to our agreement for reduced payment on the above-mentioned account, I write as promised with details of my current financial situation. Please find enclosed an updated personal budget and list of creditors showing my revised offer of payment to yourselves. I trust that this revised offer is acceptable and I would be grateful if you would continue to freeze interest on the account. I will advise you of any major changes in circumstances and will contact you in six months time with an update. Thank you for your consideration of this matter. Yours faithfully Signature 10

11 EXAMPLE LETTER NO CHANGE IN OFFER YOUR ADDRESSS DATE Dear Sirs ACCOUNT NUMBER Further to our agreement relating to this account, I write as promised with details of my current financial circumstances. As can be seen from the enclosed personal budget, there has been no change in my circumstances. I would therefore be grateful if our previous arrangement could be extended for six months. I will of course inform you of any change of circumstances and will contact you in six months with an update of my financial situation. Thank you for your consideration of this matter. Yours faithfully Signature 11

12 Paying bills There are lots of ways to save money on bills and make it easier to pay on time. 1. Switch to Direct Debit. Paying for gas and electricity is often cheaper if you pay by direct debit. Prepayment meters are generally more expensive and it takes time to top up. Carefully consider the pros and cons before you have a pre-payment meter fitted. 2. Check your bills. Always check your bills when they come through to make sure you don t miss the payment date. For gas and electricity, give your supplier a meter reading and make an accurate payment this will prevent paying too much or too little on an estimated bill 3. Control your heating. Make use of timers and thermostats to minimise waste and move furniture and heavy curtains away from radiators 4. Be energy efficient. Use energy saving light bulbs, turn off appliances and when buying new appliances choose the most energy efficient version you can afford. 5. Shop around for services. You can save lots of money on gas, electricity, insurance, telephone bills and more by using price comparison sites or calling different supplier for quotes. If you are over 60 or get certain benefits you can get discounts, additional services or grants from energy suppliers - just ask! 12

13 Affordable finance There are a range of products and services available to help you manage your money and bills Finance option Services Credit unions Credit unions are membership based organisations where you can save and borrow money, often at better rates than banks or building societies. They are regulated by the Financial Services Authority so your money is protected in the same way as it would be at a bank or building society. For Greenwich and Thamesmead residents contact or For Tower Hamlets residents contact Basic bank accounts A basic bank account allows you to receive money and pay bills but you won t need to have a credit check to open one. With a basic bank account you can have your wages, benefits, pension or tax credits paid in directly. You can also deposit cheques for free but will need to wait for them to clear. You can take out money from cash machines (usually for free but some machines charge) or at the post office. You can also pay your bills by direct debit which often saves money and time. Visit your local bank to find out more. 13

14 Who to contact Our Welfare Benefits Team can help and advise you about any issues in this booklet just contact them on or visit You can also contact the other organisations below. National Debtline This service provides free confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems Consumer Credit Counselling Services CCCS is a registered charity offering free, confidential advice and support to anyone who is worried about debt Directgov The government website offering information about benefit entitlements, debt management and budgeting skills. Citizens Advice Bureau The Citizens Advice Bureau helps people resolve their legal, money and other issues by providing free, independent and confidential advice (Greenwich), (Tower Hamlets) or (Bexley). 14

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