Articles in Category: Blog

Citizens Advice helps one person every 3 minutes with bailiff issues

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Citizens Advice is calling for better regulation of unaccountable bailiff firms as it reveals households have fallen behind on their essential bills, such as council tax and utilities, by an estimated £18.9 billion.
 
Last year, the charity helped one person every 3 minutes with bailiff issues. In 2014, the government introduced reforms which were meant to protect people from unfair practices. Yet since then, Citizens Advice has seen a 24% rise in bailiff problems.
 
In July, MPs on the Treasury Select Committee said government and local authorities were “worst in class” for debt collection, and that bailiff use can cause additional problems.
 
Falling behind on household bills typically has more severe consequences than missing consumer credit repayments, like overdrafts and personal loans. People can face having their essential services cut off, can be kicked out of their home due to rent arrears or even face prison if they get behind on their council tax. Citizens Advice is concerned that aggressive tactics are also having serious knock-on effects, leading to further debt and mental health problems.
 
In one example, Citizens Advice helped a retired couple who - for the first time in their lives - had fallen behind on some of their essential bills and owed £700 in council tax. The bailiffs who came to collect the debt were aggressive and demanded the full amount immediately, saying they were going to call the police if the couple couldn’t pay. The couple are now afraid to open their front door.
 
Citizens Advice says it has seen a significant increase in the proportion of debt issues it helps people with that are related to household bill debts since 2011. Since then, problems with these kinds of debts have overtaken the number of consumer credit issues that people are seeking the charity’s help with.
 
Its figures show the people it helps with household bill problems tend to be in a more precarious financial position than those with consumer credit debts. The charity says people with household bill debt were 37% more likely to be out of full-time employment and almost 1 in 3 people (34%) had a mental health problem.
 
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“One person every 3 minutes come to us for help with bailiff issues. Families are living in fear of a visit from the bailiffs, and small missed bills can skyrocket through excessive enforcement fees.
 
“Our evidence shows aggressive tactics by bailiffs cause huge distress and can even push people further into debt. Families are going without essentials like food or electricity to meet their payments.
 
“The Ministry of Justice has already announced a call for evidence into aggressive collection practices by bailiffs. They must use this to take strong action and introduce an independent bailiff regulator to fix this broken system.”
 
Figures from the charity show:
  • UK households owe £18.9 billion to essential service providers and government in arrears. This includes tax credit overpayments of almost £7.5 billion, £2.84 billion owed to local authorities in council tax arrears and £2.20 billion owed to water companies.
  • Household debt has now overtaken consumer credit as the key money problem people bring to Citizens Advice.
  • Last year we helped people with 690,000 household bill debt problems, compared to 350,000 consumer credit issues.
Citizens Advice is calling for:
  1. The government to commit to measuring the levels of household debt. The government should collect and report annually on the level of debt to government and to essential service providers - in a similar way to the Bank of England’s monthly statistics on consumer and mortgage lending.
  2. The bailiff industry to be independently regulated. The Ministry of Justice should use its announced ‘crackdown on rogue bailiffs’ and 3 year review of the 2014 Taking Control Regulations, to bring bailiffs and bailiff companies under an independent regulator.
People who are concerned about their finances can contact Citizens Advice for budgeting and debt advice.
 

DEBT TEAM OF THE YEAR WINNERS

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Debt Team of the Year 2018

We are so proud to share the news that our Money Advice Team at Citizens Advice Portsmouth received the Debt Team of the year award from the Institute of Money Advisers (IMA) at the 2018 annual IMA conference in Manchester. 
 
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Portsmouth residents are one of the few areas who have the benefit of being able to turn to a full time team of highly skilled and experienced money advisers in times of financial crisis thanks to the funding we receive from the Money Advice Service.
Our amazing team work tirelessly and passionately for the residents of Portsmouth. Last year alone they wrote off £1.3 million of debt, assisted clients with over £4.8 million of debt and gained over £750,000 of benefit entitlement for their clients and its wonderful to see them get some recognition. 

Major Fostering Event

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Free Entry Event: Emirates Spinnaker Tower, Tuesday 22 May, 7.30pm - 9.30pm (Fostering & Adoption)
 
Could you transform lives as a foster carer or adoptive parent? Anyone who has been thinking about fostering or adoption can enjoy free entry to the Emirates Spinnaker Tower on Tuesday 22 May, 7.30pm–9.30pm, and have a chat with current foster carers, adoptive parents and social workers.
 
Foster carers get fantastic satisfaction from making a real difference in the life of a vulnerable child or young person. Plus, they receive top-quality support, training and around £165-£550 a week per child in their care (some of which goes towards food, clothes, toys, savings etc for the child).
 
Carers come from all walks of life, regardless of ethnicity or sexuality. While a spare bedroom is crucial, it doesn't matter whether you own or rent your home. Some people foster as a career, whilst some combine fostering with other employment.
 
If you don't feel you can foster full or part-time (e.g. on a respite basis), then our Lodgings Plus scheme could be for you. You could provide a spare room and around 10 hours of support per week to a vulnerable 16 to 24 year-old, helping them with things like learning to cook, applying for jobs, college or university and moving on to live independently. Lodgings Plus providers receive over £750 for each young person in their care (if providing daily meals).
 
Take a look at some film clips from our foster carers, and a young person in care, at foster.portsmouth.gov.uk/what-is-fostering/film-clips.aspx.
 
If you're considering adoption, we are pleased to say that the Portsmouth Adoption Service will also be at the event to share their experiences and answer your questions.
 
For more info on fostering or adoption in general:
• foster.portsmouth.gov.uk
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• 023 9283 4071
or
• adoption.portsmouth.gov.uk
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• 023 9287 5294

Free Deaf Advice Service

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Introduction

Hello! This video explains how you can access our debt advice service via a BSL/English interpreter.

The Debt Advice Form

For guidance on completing the Deaf Debt Advice Form, please click the link above.

Background

Many people struggle with debt and it can be hard to know what to do or where to go. Some examples of debt are with credit card payments, council tax arrears, loans or bank overdrafts, mortgage, and so on. These can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.

To advise you on your debt issues we offer a service called Money Advice Service Debt Advice Project, or MASDAP. This is a government funded debt advice service that is free and confidential. You will not be judged and neither is any personal information shared with the Money Advice Service. Citizens Advice is fully impartial and confidential.

If you are deaf and want help with debt, the project will cover the cost of a BSL Interpreter so that you can access the services of a debt adviser. The Interpreter is free, you do not have to pay anything. Interpreters booked through this project are provided by Action on Hearing Loss.

This video explains the steps you can take to use the service.

Criteria

The only criteria is that you have a debt or are behind with your bills. For example, you might be at threat from losing your home that has come about as a result of being unable to meet payments. Another example is owing money on a credit card or a store card and being unable to repay. Interest is accruing and you are receiving letters demanding repayment from your creditor.

What you need to do - step by step process

Inform us that you want to see an adviser about your debt. We have created a Debt Advice Form for you to complete.

The Debt Advice Form will either be displayed on the web page, or you will see the option to download it. There is a separate video in BSL for the questions.

Fill out the form and send it to us. The instructions on how to send to us can be found at the bottom of the form.

An adviser will contact you as soon as possible with an appointment date (please see the form for how long it will take to hear from an adviser). Your appointment date and time will be during working hours. It may be at least two weeks before you can see an adviser as this is dependent on interpreter availability but we will aim to see you as soon as possible.

Once you receive an appointment time and date it is important that you confirm with us that you can attend.

If we do not hear back from you within 5 days, then we will assume that you do not want advice at this time and the appointment will be cancelled.

What customers say

“I was very low when I came to the CAB, with debts and problems everywhere. I am now a lot happier, as I pay one sum of money each month and get left alone by creditors”.