Debt Advice For Older People

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1 Debt Advice For Older People

2 Debt Advice For Older People Older people are among the hardest hit financially in the current economic climate as savings are eroded and everyday essentials increase in cost. Traditionally, older people were significantly less likely to get into debt than younger people but increasing pressures to support grown-up children and grandchildren, rising bills and reduced income mean that many older people are struggling to live within their means.

3 Local Poverty Local government s A profile of older people in Northern Ireland 2014 update underlines that Northern Ireland has an ageing population and that older people are now more likely to be in poverty than working age adults and the population as a whole. 52% of older people aged and 66% 75 year olds and over are fuel poor, so many have a stark choice heat or eat. As a consequence of this, the rising cost of living or even the financial concerns of the family circle, many older people are now in debt. Understanding how to manage money is key to resolving debt issues and this guide is designed to give you basic information on how to deal with debts and where to go for further help. Be Careful of Advertisements Firstly, avoid companies advertising easy credit on TV or in the newspapers. The interest charged will be very high and, if you are a homeowner, these companies may try to persuade you to secure the debt on your home. It is always a good idea to seek independent financial advice before borrowing. debts or to make a case in court that you do not owe the money. Be aware these companies charge for their services and may not be able to get your debts written off. Realistic Budgeting The key to dealing with debt is to identify a realistic budget which includes planning for unexpected expenditure or special occasions, and stick to it. Just write down everything you spend your money on and compare that to the income that you receive, and this will help you to see why you are getting into debt. Make sure you are getting all the benefits and income you are entitled to. Once you see where the money is going, you may be able to identify ways to reduce expenditure on some items and prioritise your spending. You may find cheaper alternatives such as charity shops or you may find a group in your area that offers unwanted goods if you collect them. There are several Freecycle outlets on the internet throughout Northern Ireland. Check online for your nearest Freecycle. You may also have seen various Many older people feel ashamed of companies advertising on the television being in debt and hide the problem or in the newspapers, offering to clear your from their friends and family, but the best thing to do is seek help so you can gain control of your finances and reduce the stress your debts are causing you. What can happen if I don t pay my Creditors Mortgage or rent : It is important to pay bills like your mortgage or rent because your home is at risk if you don t. Rates: Most occupiers are liable to pay rates. If you rent, you may be liable and you must check your tenancy agreement. If you get into arrears with your rates, you will lose the right to pay in instalments. If a court order is granted and you do not make arrangements to repay the debt this could lead to enforcement which could include bankruptcy. Utility Bills: If you don t pay your utility bills - gas, electricity or telephone bills - you could be disconnected (although this is rare). You cannot be disconnected without a court order. Credit Debts: Payment of credit debts, for example credit cards or loans will usually only be a priority if you own your property because all a creditor can do is seek a County Court judgement requiring you to pay. The court will almost always allow you time to repay. If you own your own home, the creditor may seek to secure the debt on your home. SUMMARY OF DEBT PRIORITY Rent / Mortgage, Rates, Utility Bills, Taxes. Are you getting all the Benefits you are entitled to? If you have a low income, whether you re still working or retired, you may be entitled to some welfare benefits. ADVICE NI is one of the organisations who will be able to give you more details and help you make an application. State Retirement Pension Currently a man over 65 and a woman over 62 can claim a state retirement pension if you have worked long enough. The current State Pension age is: 65 for men born before 6 December 1953 between 60 and 65 for women born after 5 April 1950 and before 6 December Pension Credit If you are of pensionable age and living on a low income, you may be entitled to the guaranteed element of pension credit. If over 65, you may be entitled to the savings element of pension credit. You may receive more pension credit if you have caring responsibilities, have severe disabilities or have certain housing costs. Contact your local advice agency for further advice. Attendance Allowance Attendance Allowance is a benefit for those who need help with their personal care. If you receive Attendance Allowance, you may be entitled to extra benefits. It

4 is a non means-tested benefit for people 65 or over. To apply, you have to fill in a form on-line or get one posted to you by phoning The Disability & Carers Service If you are under 65, you may be entitled to Disability Living Allowance. Extra Help for Older People Non Means tested Everyone over 60 is eligible for a Translink pass, you can call for an application on Everyone over 75 is entitled to a free TV licence, simply call or go to Everyone over 70 who lives alone is entitled to a 20% discount on their rates. Contact Land and Property Services (LPS) on If you were born on or before 5 July 1952 you are eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment of between Most payments are made automatically between November and December, if you do not receive your payment contact Passported help for those in receipt of means-tested benefits such as Pension Credit Guarantee Credit. You will receive a Cold Weather Payment which is a one-off payment of 25 when the temperature drops below a certain level for a 7 day period. Free Health treatment and help with housing costs. Contact Details for further Help Debt Action NI Freephone Tax & Benefits Freephone helpline Dealing with Debts Best thing to do is to seek advice. Although it is tempting to bury your head in the sand, letting creditors know you are having difficulties is the first step towards taking control of your finances. It is important not to borrow more to get out of debt. This will only cause more problems in the long term. Most creditors will accept an offer to repay debts in instalments. A money adviser will be able to help you to work out your budget and help negotiate on your behalf and agree a plan with you for dealing with your creditors. Advice NI s Debt Action team will be able to provide support and work out what is best for you and your creditors. A debt management plan may be your best option or, if your debt is less than 5,000, you may be able to ask Court to make an Administrative Order. If you have many debts and your situation is unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future, declaring yourself bankrupt might be a suitable option for you. This involves going to court and asking for a bankruptcy order. Once the order is made, you will have very limited access to credit and if you have disposable income this may be used to pay your creditors. Usually you will be discharged from bankruptcy within a year. However, if you are a home owner, you are likely to lose your home. Still, if you wish to take this option, you should get advice from an experienced money adviser. Advice NI s debt team are there to advise you. Simply text ACTION to or call Freephone Alternatively, you can make an appointment to see an adviser in your local area for free advice. Understanding Money Matters Managing your finances can be very difficult. Some people have difficulty reading a bank statement or writing a cheque and people who have these difficulties are excluded from making informed choices about their money. Nowadays we all need a bank account into which wages or benefits can be paid, but there are many different types of account. Some people find it difficult to open a bank account because of a poor credit history. A money adviser can help you through the money maze and explain your options. Credit Do you rely on access to credit for special occasions or even for essential items? Some forms of credit are fine, but others are extremely expensive. Many people get into financial difficulties through relying on credit. However, most of us use credit at some time to pay for expensive items. Provided you can afford to repay your credit and the interest rate is not too high, there is nothing wrong with buying goods or services on credit. Catalogues offer a variety of goods allowing you to pay for items in instalments usually over weeks. However, the cost of the item is likely to be much higher than buying from discount stores on the high street or via the internet. Credit Unions Credit unions offer low cost loans to their members. A credit union is a profit sharing cooperative run by its members. A credit union aims to encourage its members to save regularly, provide a loan to its members at very low rates of interest and to provide members with help and support on managing their financial affairs if required. SOME ORGANISATIONS YOU CAN CONTACT FOR FURTHER HELP: Age NI: 3, Lower Crescent Belfast BT7 1NR Tel: Department for Social Development: Benefit Enquiry Line Freephone: Advice NI: 1 Rushfield Avenue, Belfast BT7 3FP Tel:

5 For further information, visit the Money Matters section of Rights 4 Seniors 1 RUSHFIELD AVENUE BELFAST BT7 3FP T: F: E: W: W: Freephone Text Action to A company limited by guarantee in Northern Ireland No: NI Northern Ireland Charity No.: NIC Copyright to Advice NI 2015 All information is correct at the time of publication and may be subject to change.

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