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2 Brentwood Borough Council and its partners offer a range of services to help residents and businesses who might be struggling to cope with the credit crunch. For business advice, please see the leaflet Credit Crunch - How can we help - Businesses Household finances have been badly stretched in the past year as the costs of energy, food and utility bills have soared. Furthermore, access to funds and mortgages via high street banks are proving difficult to obtain. The downturn in the economy and the decrease in demand for goods and services has led to higher unemployment levels across commerce and industry. Many homes are now facing financial difficulties and this leaflet offers some simple tips to try to help you manage. Get advice There are many organisations that offer free and independent money advice such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Shelter, National Debtline, and the Consumer Credit Counselling Service. Their debt advisers can assess your situation and work out the best course of action for you. For details of organisations that can help, see the back of this leaflet. Remember, pay your priority debts first. There are some debts you need to pay first before others, because the consequences of not paying them can be much more serious. For example, mortgage or rent debts are a priority as if you don t pay these you could lose your home. Debt advisers can help you plan your budget and pay your priority debts first.

3 Maximise your income Are you getting all the money you're entitled to? You may be entitled to benefits or tax credits such as Pension Credit that you haven't claimed. Working Tax Credit is an in-work benefit, which is not just available to people with children. You might be able to get it if you work enough hours and are disabled or your income is low enough; even if you don't have children. You may be able to get Council Tax Benefit or Housing Benefit to help you pay your council tax and rent. You don't necessarily have to be out of work to get these benefits. You can talk to a Customer Service Adviser by calling the Benefits Helpline: (Monday to Thursday: 9am 5pm, Friday 9am-4.30pm) You may be able to get help with your health costs such as prescription charges and dental costs. You may be able to claim help with education costs such as school meals and clothing. You may be able to get a grant to help you pay for things like fitting home insulation and improving energy efficiency. This can help cut down the fuel bills. Your gas and electricity supplier may be able to help you if you have fuel debts. To find out if you can get help, visit the British Gas Energy Trust website at: or the EDF Energy Trust website at: There are also some charities that give grants to people to help pay their bills or buy essential items. You can find a list of these charities on the Turn 2 Us website at: An adviser can help you maximise your income. For details of organisations thath can help, go to the back of this leaflet.

4 Make savings on your household expenses Look carefully at your spending and see if there is anything you are able to cut down on. For example, you could shop around for a cheaper gas or electricity provider, or look at cheaper mortgage or insurance providers. You can find more information about changing your gas and electricity suppliers from the website of the consumer watchdog, Consumer Focus at: To find out more about how to save money on financial products such as mortgages and insurance, go to the website of financial watchdog the Financial Services Authority at: Housing: Don t Lose Your Home! One of the greatest threats from the Credit Crunch is that residents may become homeless as a result of not being able to maintain the mortgage or rental payments on their homes. In many cases this can be avoided so don t let it happen to you, take action now. The people at highest risk are those who are having problems but ignore them until it s too late. If you are having difficulties keeping up with your mortgage or rent payments you need to act now to protect your home. Firstly, speak to your mortgage lender or landlord. Seeking repossession of your home is a last resort and if you are able to come to a mutually acceptable arrangement at an early stage then court action can be avoided.

5 If you cannot come to a satisfactory arrangement with your mortgage lender or landlord then seek specialist housing, legal or financial dvice through organisations such as Shelter or the Citizens Advice Bureau. If you are homeless, or threatened with homelessness, then you must speak to the Council s Housing Needs Team on to make an appointment for an interview with one of our advisors. Whilst we have a duty to assist vulnerable homeless people we will also give advice and assistance to any household in housing need. Council Tax Don't bury your head in the sand Ignoring your debt problems will only make them worse. Don t ignore calls or letters from the Council Tax Department. Contact them to explain why you re having problems The sooner you do this, the more options you'll have for solving your financial problems. There are discounts and exemptions that can be applied to your bill by the Council in certain circumstances, such as: l Single resident discount (25%) for those living alone l Disregards for students, carers, second home owners, hospital patients and so on l Reductions for people with disabilities where certain adaptions to their property have been made l Exemption for empty properties for up to six months l Council tax banding - if you feel that your property is in the wrong band, you should contact the Valuation Office on For further information please contact or see the Council Tax pages on the Council s website

6 Concessionary Transport Fares Brentwood residents who are concessionary bus pass holders can now travel on buses from 9am for free on journeys that start in Essex. However this does not include travel on long distance or express coach services or special services such as tours or excursions. For further details call or visit our National Concessionary Travel page on the website: Useful numbers Advice UK Network of advice providing organisations Age Concern Essex An independent local charity working with and for senior citizens in Essex Business Debt Line A business helpline providing free, confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems Business Link East A free advice and support service for businesses in the East of England

7 Citizens Advice Bureau An independent voluntary organisation offering a comprehensive, confidential and free information, advice and advocacy service Community Legal Advice Free, confidential and independent legal advice org.uk Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) CCCS offers a structured programme on how to manage your money (freephone) Credit Action Provides information and guidance for people looking to manage their money better or to deal with debt or money worries insulation and heating works Job Centre Plus Jobs and benefits advice National Debt Line Free confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems Payplan Free confidential advice on debt problems Shelter A homelessness charity that runs a homelessness helpline, has a network of housing aid centres and works with the local Citizens Advice Bureau Energy Saving Trust Advice Centre Provides free impartial advice on ways to save money on fuel bills and on grant schemes for

8 See the Benefit Crack the Crunch Roadshow 4th March 2009 Tourist Information Centre 44 High Street, Brentwood 8am - 6pm Brentwood Borough Council Town Hall Ingrave Road Brentwood Essex CM15 8AY T: for general enquiries or if you have difficulty hearing T: Revenue Customer Services E: W: We can provide this document in other formats, such as large print, audio tape or a translation. For more information, please call

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