The Hidden Homeless in the UK

There are no accurate statistics on homelessness. Seems slightly odd to me that most things can be counted but not the amount of people who are homeless. I realise it is difficult to count the number of people sleeping rough and those who are “sofa-surfing” but local authorities should have records of those who are claiming to be homeless.

To be legally defined as homeless you must either lack a secure place in which you are entitled to live or not reasonably be able to stay in your current accommodation. However, in order for your local authority to have a duty to find you housing, there are further strict criteria that you have to meet. The housing a local authority provides to households who meet these criteria, mainly families with children, may initially be temporary accommodation.
In England alone, over 113,000 households applied to their local authority for homelessness assistance in 2012/13, an 11 per cent increase in the last two years.

If you are single and homeless, you are not a priority so you are left to find other places to sleep. There are nearly 41,500 bed places in hostels for single people living in England.

So where else is there to sleep? Squats, Bed & Breakfast establishments (if you have the money)and floors. Pretty gruesome isn’t it really?

So spare a thought for the homeless and the thousands of hidden homeless people this winter.
It is not easy for us in these harsh economic times but the majority of us have a plate of food a day. Quite often, the homeless go without.

The Rising Cost of Energy – The Wholesale Cost Anomaly

I’m just a poor householder who is, like many others, struggling to cope with the continuing rice of gas and electricity.
The “Big Six” energy suppliers and OFGEM were hauled up to face questions by MP’s this week.
I can honestly say that, I wasn’t glued to the TV watching it – no point – the cost of my household energy bills would be rising regardless what was said.

However, like many other people, I did notice one glaring anomaly.

OFGEM said their calculations showed a 1.7% rise in the cost of wholesale energy. Amazingly, the “Big Six” agreed it was nearer or just less than 5%. Yes. Whatever.

BUT if it is 5%, why do the big six feel the need to rise the price to the general consumer to an average of 9.1%? WHY? Show me exactly (and tangible evidence) what you are investing in. And in MY area. I can’t see any physical evidence of investment.

Oh and another thing, I am not a homeowner but why the blinkin’ heck should I have to pay extra on my bills to cover the cost of the Green Energy thing and why do I have to pay extra to help homeowners insulate their homes or have a new boiler? Why? Nobody asked me if I wanted to contribute – so why the heck should I?

Rant over.

Supermarkets and Food Wastage

Tesco have said that in the first half of 2013, they threw away just under 30,000 tonnes of fresh food.
1/4 of Grapes are thrown away.
40% of Apples are thrown away.
2/3 of pre-packed Salad goods are thrown away.

Families are also guilty of wasting food. It is said that on average a family wastes £700 worth of food a year.

I think this is a disgrace. However, you can read the full story HERE.

Another MP who has NO idea ……

I’m sure we have all said things without properly knowing the full picture. We comment on things without having any experience of things.
But I’m getting fed up of MP’s telling people how to manage their money etc.
How dare they!
We have yet another MP (Paul Maynard) has stuck his nose in and commented on people who use foodbanks. He suggested people may visit food banks out of habit, using handouts rather than taking responsibility for their own welfare.
Goodness! Coming from a person who doesn’t have to worry about how to pay the gas bill or put money in the electric meter is an insult to those in poverty. He doesn’t have to decide whether to Heat or Eat. He has no idea what it is like living on the breadline.
None of them do so they need to shut up.

Recession or Depression?

Is this acceptable?

More children are signing up for free school meals.
5.4 million households are living in fuel poverty.
100% increase in people using food banks.
8% increase in suicide rates.
Youth clubs are closing down.
83% of teachers have seen more children arriving hungry at school.
Charities and community groups are struggling to cope. This is hurting people who need help most.

We are in a recession but are we going back to the era of depression?

Jobseekers Allowance and the Sanctions imposed …..

We have the right to eat. This is a basic HUMAN RIGHT. However, it seems the coalition government think otherwise.
Benefit sanctions have jumped to a shockingly high level since the coalition came to power. Since May 2010 an astonishing 2,257,000 claimants on Jobseeker’s Allowance have had their benefits referred for a decision on whether to cut their benefits for a fixed length period. The sanctions are in place from one week up to three years leaving people starving and unable to pay for for let alone their utility bills. The DWP’s statistical footnote explains that ‘prior to April 2010, a Failure to Attend Advisory Interview attracted an entitlement decision. Since then, it has attracted a fixed length sanction of between 1 and 2 weeks.’ It is this kind of sanction which accounts for 1,150,670 of all sanctions – by far the largest number, this category has only come in to play since the Coalition took office. 487,980 reported failures to participate in the Coalition’s Work Programme are recorded since July 2011. The fixed length sanction regime can last a longer than two weeks but the period of 1 to 2 weeks is what is recorded in the DWP’s notes. It is simply incomprehensible that the rate of sanction should increase from 5,000 per month to over 100,000 purely because new conditionality has been built in to the claims regime. It should be remembered that these figures only relate to those claiming Jobseekers Allowance, the DWP has yet to publish full figures for the Employment & Support Allowance.
Government Unemployment numbers are closely related to the above figures, so it is easy to assume that these sanctions are being imposed as a way to reduce the unemployment statistics.

In another news item, the savage impact of welfare cuts was laid bare yesterday as Citizens Advice Scotland launched an emergency guide to surviving with NO food or money.

In an admission that harked back to the time of Charles Dickens, the charity said they were forced to produce the document after being swamped by pleas for help from people left destitute. Many have resorted to taking out payday loans and are using food banks just to keep going.

More people sliding into poverty

An alarming 78% rise in food bank inquiries has taken place over the last six months, as people with jobs start using them to provide emergency supplies until their next pay day.
The figures reveal significant regional disparities in demand for information about food bank services in England and Wales, suggesting certain parts of the country are suffering considerably more than others.
The Citizens Advice said the worst affected area was the West Midlands, where there had been a 142% increase in inquiries – 779 in total – since February. The figures show a rise in inquiries about food banks in Citizens Advice bureaux in almost every region of the country.
The rise in food bank inquiries in the past six months showed that, despite falling unemployment, millions were still experiencing financial difficulties.

A Newcastle Food Bank in Food Crisis

A Newcastle Food Bank is running out of food donations and is in crisis. The food bank, which is in Heaton has only been open a year and operates for 5 hours a week has seen a significant rise in demand for food in 2013.

To read the full story please click HERE.

To donate food, please visit Newcastle East Foodbank by clicking here.

Half a million go hungry in the UK

It has now been reported that half a million people in the UK are going hungry. They are struggling to feed themselves as unemployment, rising food prices and, in particular, benefit cutbacks bite hard.

350,000 people – including 126,000 children – have now received at least three days’ help from the Trussell Trust, which runs food banks across the country. This was 100,000 more than expected, up 170 per cent on the previous year and more than 13 times as many as the 26,000 in 2008-2009.

The Department for Work and Pensions are still insisting: ‘Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the universal credit simplifying the complex myriad of benefits and making 3million households better off.’

 

Debt & Financial Crisis

Dealing with Debt

If you, or someone you know is in debt then the time to take action has arrived.

The first thing to do is to sort out who you owe money to, how much you owe and how much money you have coming in.

If you do have problems paying creditors or suppliers, it is important to know which are Priority Debts and which are not.
If you do not act relatively quickly then some creditors could take you to court, seek repossession of your home, seek eviction, seek possession of goods or disconnect your supply. The law has changed so that water companies can no longer disconnect you.

Priority Debts

TV Licensing
Mortgage
Second Mortgage or Secured loan
Rent arrears
Council tax
Gas/Electricity/Water rates
Magistrates’ court fines
Maintenance
Hire purchace or conditional sale
Income tax, National Insurance and VAT.

If you owe any of the above money or are having difficulty paying them, it is vitally important that you get in touch with them as soon as you can to explain the situation.
It’s best not to ignore any of these types of debts.

Non-Priority Debts

These are the debts that get paid only after the priority debts have been dealt with. Depending on how much money is left will depend on how much you can pay.

Credit card debts
Loans with finance companies
Loans with banks or building societies
Charge cards
Catalogues
Debts to friends or family
Door-step collection loans
Credit sale agreements

Non-priorty debts that are not so straight forward are:

rent, phone, gas or electric from a previous supplier or property – these are someway in the middle – because the company concerned can ask your current supplier to disconnect you.

Statement of Affairs/Income & Expenditure

The next thing to do is to write down your income in one column and your expenditure in another column. You have to be totally honest with yourself here. Its sometimes best to keep your shopping/drink/cigarretes receipts for a couple of weeks to enable you to get a really good idea of your expenditure. Keeping shopping reciepts for future reference will also help you to see where future savings may be made.

Here is an example:

Income Weekly or monthly

Wages or salary ……………………………….
Wages or salary (Partner) ……………………………….
Any/all benefits ……………………………….
Tax credits ……………………………….
Child benefit ……………………………….
Maintenance ……………………………….
Non-dependent contributions ……………………………….
Any other income (not DLA) ……………………………….

Total income ………………………………. Box A

Disability Living Allowance need not be counted as income because it is a payment from the government to totally cover extra costs of having a disability. However you should tell creditors if you recieve it.

Expenditure

Rent ………………………………..
Council Tax ……………………………….
Water rates ………………………………
Service charges ………………………………
Gas & electricity ………………………………
Other fuel ………………………………
Building/contents insurance ……………………………….
Life insurance/pension plans ……………………………….
Housekeeping ……………………………….
Tv rental & licence ………………………………..
Telephone ……………………………….
Childminding ………………………………
Prescriptions/health costs ………………………………
Hire purchase payments 1 ……………………………..
Hire purchase payments 2 ……………………………..
Car tax & insurance ……………………………..
Petrol …………………………….
Travelling expenses ……………………………..
Clothing ………………………………
School meals and/or meals at work …………………………….
Other 1 (e.g Xmas saving club) ……………………………..
Other 2 (e.g emergency money) …………………………….
Other 3 …………………………….

Total Expenditure …………………………… Box B

Now take away the total in Box B from the total in Box A.

Income & ExpenditureIf your outgoings (Box b) are more than your incomings (Box a) try doing the following:Check whether you are entitled to extra benefits such as Income Support, Pension Credit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing and Council Tax benefit. Go to your local Dept. for Work and Pensions Office, Housing Office or Advice Centre.

Check that you are spreading out payments on your household bills so you don’t end up paying them all at once. Gas, Electricity and Water companies do have budget payment schemes in operation to help you.

If you have prescription costs, dental and eyesight costs you need to check to see if you can pay reduced amounts or get them free. Telephone “Help with Health Costs” enquiry line on 0845 850 1166 to ask for an application form.

Look very closely at your out goings to see if you can cut down anywhere.

As a rule of thumb the following usually applies with regard to outgoings:

Clothing …… £3 – £5 per week per person
Housekeeping …… £35 – £45 per week for a single person
….. £60 – £75 per week for a couple
….. £20 – £35 per week for each child

You may find your bill is less than this if you are in a position to bulk buy.

Housekeeping should include food, toiletries, cleaning stuff, newspapers etc and should also include a small amount for entertainment and other spending.

If your outgoings are still more than your incomings after doing these basic things, it is vitally important that you seek advice from a free debt advisor.

Money left over and which debts to pay firstYou’ve worked out your incomings and outgoings. Now you need to decide which are the most important debts – the ones you pay first.In the income & expenditure posts above …….. Box B was deducted from Box A ……….. the remainder is the money you have left to pay your debts. This is Box C.

Make a list of the Priority debts. Add up the totals but put monthly payment totals in. That total is now Box D.

Example:
Gas Debt £187.00 Monthly repayment £25
Rent Debt £ 75.00 Monthly repayment £10

Total £262.00 Monthly repayment £35 Box D

Depending on how you started – either working out on a weekly or monthly basis will be how you determine how much your payments will be.

Think very carefully about how much you can offer to repay. It may be that there are non-priority debts that have to be dealt with as well but in most cases if finances are seriously tight a “token” payment may be offered to non- priority creditors.

For instance, if you have a large outstanding gas bill. You phone the company, they ask you to pay £40 a month to clear the bill. Negotiate. You do not have to tell them there are other debts but it sometimes help. Negotiate the payments down to £20 or £30. Its advisable to A) leave a little to pay other creditors and B) ……… er … you do have to live!

Take Box D away from Box C after you have negotiated payments to Priority creditors. That will leave you Box E – money left for non-priority debts.

Dealing with non-priority debts.This is the fun bit!A bit of advice first.

You’ll need nerves of steel and the ability not to be frightened by threatening letters and aggressive phone calls. A calm but firm approach to these creditors is what is needed. Always remember – you cannot give them what you haven’t got AND the creditors cannot do anything unless they have the signature of a county court judge.
Do not be frightened ……………… they cannot have what you haven’t got.

Ok. You’ve sorted out the priority debts.

First lets assume there is a neglible amount left for the non-priority debts. If you know that you will not be able to pay them when the next payment is due – get in first! Write to them. Enclose a copy of your income & expenditure sheet. Enclose a covering letter explaining your current situation and offer a token payment (this can be as little as £1 a month). You must ask them to freeze interest & other charges. Keep a copy of the letter. You may not hear back from them before the payment is due. PAY THEM the token amount anyway. This means that you are showing your intention to pay. They will eventually get around to contacting you. Stand firm. Insist that is what you are offering. The majority of creditors will accept this and will review the situation in 3 – 6 months.

Maybe there is a bit more money left. Depending on the amount you owe and how many creditors there really depends on what you can pay them. The general rule of thumb being that the higher the debt, the more you pay.
E.G. Loan £10,000 Original payment £200 per month Your Offer £30 per month
CC £2,00 ” ” £50 per month ” ” £10 per month

Don’t be frightened. Don’t cave in. If these companies do have your telephone number, be aware that you could recieve up to 30 calls a day from just one company chasing you for money. These calls can be aggressive, but you can tell them you have written and what arrangements you are prepared to make.If you find yourself in this situation, try and change your telephone number (most companies allow one change of number without charge), consider having the phone disconnected completely or ensure that you have caller display.

Told you this was the fun section!

Other ways to arrange payments to your creditors

Debt Management Plans

If you choose this option, Choose a free DMP. This will mean going to National Debtline, the CAB or CCCS. It basically means that you make one payment every month to one of the above, which is then divided up and sent to your creditors for you. You do not have to do any negotiating with your creditors, the above do it for you. However, you must have:

at least 3 credit debts
your available money for debts is at least £100 per month
you owe at least £5000.

There are other companies to use (Payplan, Ernst & Bains etc) BUT they will charge you.

Individual Voluntary Arrangements

This is basically an alternative to bankruptcy. This is a legal and formal arrangement made through the county court to pay an agreed amount off your debt and over a shorter period of time normally about 5 years. The IVA will be set up by an insolvency practioner and their fees are high. An IVA is usually only worth looking into if you have a fair amount of money available each month to pay your creditors.

Beware The insolvency practioner holds the money for the period set down by the court. If you default on payments the insolvency practioner will keep the money you have paid and is under no obligation to pass it on to your creditors.

Administration Orders
If you have been or are going to be taken to court by a creditor, it might be an idea to apply to the court for an administration order. The court adds up all your debts and you make one monthly payment to the court. The court then shares this money out to your creditors. The total of debts though must be no more than £5000. Your creditors cannot take any further action against you if an administration order is in place. You can also apply to the court yourself by getting form N92 from your local county court.

Lump sums
If you have resources that you can access, you could offer your creditors a “lump sum” which is classed a ‘full & final installment’. If your circumstances are unlikely to change, a creditor may agree to your offer.

Consolidation
Think very carefully before deciding to add all the debts together and aquiring a loan to pay them off.

Writing off debts
Very rarely will a creditor agree to write off the debt. However, if your circumstances are extremely difficult or distressing due to illness, age or the death of a close relative, its always worth asking. Some have been known to agree.

Don’t worry if your offer of payment is small. A creditor would much rather receive something than nothing at all!

Bankruptcy

This is really the last resort. Very few creditors will actually petition the court for a debtor to be made bankrupt – the creditor will usually not get any money at all after a bankruptcy order has been made.

If, you work out that the payments you are currently making will not clear your debts in the next 5 – 7 years, the filing for bankruptcy may be way out of a financial mess. Bankruptcy is a solution if you owe a lot of money, have no assets and can see no way of ever paying the debts off.

At the present time, if you choose to petition your own bankruptcy it will cost £700. However, if you are on Income Support or can prove that your income is below a certain level, the court fees (£175) are waived leaving you £525 to actually pay the judge. However, you must be able to show the judge that you have taken advice from the CAB, NDL, CCCS or another debt management company. So make an appointment to see a debt advisor.

Unless you have been naughty (I.E. getting another loan when you knew you couldn’t pay it off etc), you will usually be discharged from bankruptcy after one year – sometimes even earlier. Each bankruptcy will have different terms.

If you choose bankruptcy, there are some companies that have trust funds to help with the court fees.

To apply for bankruptcy, phone or visit your local county court for the bankruptcy forms. When you have the money to pay the court, phone them up or pop in to make your initial appointment. This initial appointment will normally take between 1 – 2 hours. The clerk will check all the forms and take your payment. You then wait for the judge. Couple of questions and he will stamp the bankruptcy notice. You are now bankrupt!
That was the easy bit!
Within 6 weeks you will receive a Statement of Affairs (Income & Expenditure form) and an exact time and date that you will be in contact with the Official Receiver (OR). The OR is the person that delves into you personal finances. The OR is the person that you will either see in person or who will telephone you. The OR is the person who ultimately decides what (if any) restrictions are placed on your Bankruptcy order.

The only bit of advice I can give on this interview is …………. don’t speak unless spoken to (there will be long periods of silence whilst they write everything down), don’t offer information but BE HONEST. Whether the interview with the OR is face to face or over the telephone be prepared for a timescale of up to 2 – 3 hours.

If you choose bankruptcy, it is best to open a Barclays Cash card account or a Co – Op cashminder card account either the day before you go to the court or as soon as you leave court.
As soon as a bank finds out you are a bankrupt, usually some “button happy” idiot will freeze your bank account. The above two accounts are used to having bankrupts apply and there shouldn’t be any problem – but again tell them. Both of these accounts can be used for DD’s but the Barclays one is not a debit card so cannot be used to pay for goods in the shops.
Also remember, that if you become officially bankrupt you are legally not allowed to apply for credit over £500 for a certain amount of time.

Debt Collection Agencies

A creditor may well pass a debt on to a collection agency.

Soooooooooo what!? A debt Collection has NO MORE POWER to get the money from you than the original creditor.

Do not worry. The only difference being is that a debt collection agency is far more intimidating and threatening than the creditor. They do not have their own bailiffs, unless they use what is called a “distraint” – a private bailiff 9and they still have to apply to the courts).
If you feel you are being unfairly harrassed or intimidated then contact the office of fair trading and report the company. All correspondance from a debt collection agency should cease if you register a query or make arrangements to pay.

Bailiffs

If you owe rent or council tax, the local council can apply to the court for a bailiff to take your belongings and sell them on to pay for the debt that is owed.

Bailiffs sent by other creditors only have the power to enter your property if you open the door to them. Once you have opened the door to a bailiff sent by the court, they have the right to enter at any time – including literally breaking in. They can take your car though, if it is parked outside.
If you have had a letter from a bailiff, contact their office and your creditor straight away to make some sort of payment arrangement. Other than that just don’t open the door to anyone until you can confirm who it is or you have written confirmation from the creditor that you have made an arrangement to pay. For each visit a bailiff makes a further (very high) charge will be added to your debt.