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Financial Help

School Uniform Aid Drops 70%

By | Financial Help, News

School Uniform Aid Drops 70%

Parents are being pushed into further debt as councils stop financial aid for school uniforms.

According to a new report obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the majority of families can no longer access the ‘School Uniform Grant’ which was introduced in the 1980s, to help struggling families buy school uniforms for their children. Since 2010 there has been a drop 0f 70% throughout England.

Even though the Department for Education still advertises the availability of the grant, only 27 out of the 149 local councils actually provide the grant, and a third of those only do so in rare cases such as fire, flood or ‘extreme poverty’. Only three councils in the whole of England offer the grant to low-income children in all years and all situations.

Even with the grant available, the average amount offered was just £36 for primary school and £63 for secondary school, this is despite the average cost of uniform in 2018 being a staggering £300 per child! Only one council (based in London) offered the full £150 which the Board of Education advertise as being available.

Labour MP Lisa Forbes, who campaigns on school uniform cost says, “These cuts hit our youngest and most vulnerable,” she said. “Each day, there are children forced to go to school in clothes that are dirty, badly fitting and unsuitable, while some even report missing lessons as a result.

“These latest figures show that families are being squeezed between rising costs and the lack of support to help with them, and both lie directly at this government’s door. I have urged ministers to keep their promise to regulate uniform costs, but for four years they have dragged their feet. This research should be the final wake-up call they need to act.”

All this does is force those that are already struggling financially – those actually eligible for the grant – to borrow and get themselves into (further) debt in order to pay for their children’s school uniforms. It is estimated that 1.7 million children attend school in badly fitting, unclean or incorrect clothing. Last year, a Children’s Society survey found that one in 10 families reported getting into debt to buy school clothes for their children.

If you are struggling with debt contact our friendly advisers today, and see how we can help. There are no fees for our advice, and no obligation to use our services.

What Affects Your Credit Score?

By | Financial Help

What Affects Your Credit Score?

Your credit score is used by lenders to decide whether or not to lend you money. There is no standard credit score; there are three main companies that offer different scores; Call Credit, Experian, and Equifax. All three offer a free credit check – so don’t pay if you don’t have to!

  • Don’t apply for credit too often in a short time
  • Try and stay in the same address for a long time
  • Ensure that you’re on the electoral roll
  • Have an old credit account
  • Make some kind of repayment – even if it’s not enough
  • Use less than 50% of available credit
  • Unless you wish to take out further credit, your rating is not something to worry too much about

Applying For Credit

Each time someone makes a ‘hard search’ on your credit report, a mark will be left on it. Now, the odd search every now and then won’t really make a difference, however, if you are applying for a lot of credit (especially if you are being turned down), it can have a strong negative effect on your credit score.
If you apply for a credit card or loan, the search will affect your credit score, however if you stick within all agreed agreements, your credit score will rise quite quickly.

When Debt Assist makes a credit check on you, we use a ‘soft search’, which doesn’t affect your score.

Address Stability

Lenders like people who are (or appear to be) reliable and stable, as in their minds, this means you are more likely to repay your debts. One of the ways they establish this stability is looking at how long you have lived at your address. Living in the same place for a long time is better for your credit score than regularly changing address.

For similar reasons, being on the electoral roll also has a positive effect on your credit score as they believe that it shows stability, as well as proof that you are who you say you are.

Account Age

Having a credit account that you have help for several years is a positive for your credit score. It’s not the most sophisticated way of checking your eligibility for a loan, but if a lender sees that someone else has lent to you over a long period and you’re repaying it, they’re much more likely to lend to you than if all of your credit was taken out in a short period of time, as this could be a sign that you are struggling financially – therefore lowering your credit score.

Not Meeting Payments

This is the obvious one, if you are not repaying any current loans then this will be marked on your credit report and is extremely likely to have a negative effect on your score.

If you have missed several payments, then the lender may place your account into ‘default’. A default can reduce your credit score massively and will stay on your report for six years. As companies have different criteria for placing people into default, it’s not worth risking any more than one payment if you are bothered about having a good credit rating.

On the plus side, if you make payments towards your debts, even if they have defaulted, it shows prospective lenders that you are at least trying to repay your debts, and they may take this into account.

Credit Limit

How you use the credit available to you is also looked at by potential lenders. Using too much of your available credit, or too much from a single source, could damage your credit score. According to Equifax, you want to keep any lending under 30% of your available credit limit for each lender. If you use 50% – 75% of available credit this will be flagged as a warning to lenders. 75% or more will be considered a ‘red flag’ and can have a much larger negative effect on your credit score.

However, having a high credit limit shows lenders than someone else has trusted you with a large amount, and will have a positive effect on your score.

CCJs, IVAs and Bankruptcy

Having a CCJ, IVA or bankruptcy against your name is a big negative on your credit report, as it shows that you haven’t stuck to the agreed terms of a previous credit arrangement. Entering into one of these situations means that your credit rating will be negatively impacted, however, in order to be in the situation in the first place means that your rating is already likely to have been affected.

Make sure that you stick to any terms you have agreed to when entering into a CCJ, IVA or bankruptcy, as this can have more serious consequences.

Once you have cleared your CCJ, IVA or bankruptcy, you can slowly rebuild your credit report.

Love Island Debt

‘Instagram Lifestyle’ Landing Brits in Debt

By | Financial Help, News

‘Instagram Lifestyle’ Landing Brits in Debt

A recent report has suggested that many Brits are getting themselves into debt to live what is called an ‘Instagram lifestyle’. They are overspending in order to look good on social media.

The Love Island Effect

The rise in popularity of reality TV show, Love Island, is being blamed, with more than 10 percent of people under 40 saying that they ‘spend beyond their means’ to ‘look better on social media’. Fashion, holidays, weddings and designer pets… appear on the reasons why people have overspent on their bank accounts, credit cards and even taken out loans!

If you do want this lifestyle, it cannot be prolonged unless you can genuinely afford it, and you can only afford it once your current finances are in order. Getting into debt is NOT a glamorous way to live, and in this instance you cannot ‘fake it until you make it’.

Not always as good as it seems

The glamorous lifestyle is not always what it’s cracked up to be. Earlier this year, former Love Island contestant, Mike Thalassitis, was found hanging after a ‘cocaine and booze’ binge. It is believed that he had a large amount debt building up in order to maintain his new-found celebrity lifestyle. Whilst there are many reasons people may commit suicide, we know that debt is high up on this list, and although it may have been the direct cause of Thalassitis’ death, it couldn’t have helped.

If you are struggling with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support. Please give them a call.

CALM thecalmzone.net 0800 585 858
Heads Together headstogether.org.uk
Mind mind.org.uk 0300 123 3393
Papyrus papyrus-uk.org 0800 068 41 41
Samaritans samaritans.org 116 123

Credit Card Debt

Credit Card Debt Soaring

By | Financial Help, News

Credit Card Debt Soaring

Following a decade-long borrowing spree, Brits owe a staggering £72.9 BILLION on credit cards according to new figures from the Bank of England. As well as this staggeringly-high credit card bill, overall consumer debt has reached an all-time high of £217.3 billion!

Why are the debts so high?

This decade-long surge in borrowing resulted from ultra-low interest rates which were introduced after the financial crisis, intended to get people spending and kick-starting the economy, it made it much easier for people to borrow large amounts of money, without being too much of a burden to repay.

The growth in this debt explosion has slowed in the past three years, hopefully showing a sign that people are starting to deal with their debts, rather than continuing to spend. Although, it’s also possible the reduction is due to banks cracking down on excessive credit card lending due to fears that people would begin struggling to repay their debts.

Struggling With Credit Card Debt?

People’s situations change. Despite the common belief that people are simply over spending, the changing of someone’s situation is by far the most common cause of debt struggles. No one applies for a £5,000 credit card thinking they won’t be able to repay it, but redundancy, poor health, divorce, and hundreds of other every-day occurrences, can severely change our situations.
As you can see from the figures above, a LOT of people are in debt, and a LOT of these people are struggling to repay.
Don’t be one of them any longer, talk to our friendly advisers today and see how we can help. There is no cost for our advice, and there is absolutely no obligation to use any debt solution we may suggest to you.

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breathing-space

Debt Breathing Room For 2021

By | Financial Help, News

Debt Breathing Room For 2021

As we discussed earlier, the government wanted to bring in ‘breathing space’ of 60 days for those struggling to repay their debts. It has been announced today that those in serious debt are to be given 60 days to get advice and sort out their finances.

Plans for a six-week ‘breathing space’ period were originally announced in October 2017, and in last year’s budget Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled plans to extend this to two months.

How Does This ‘Breathing Space’ Work?

If you are struggling with ‘serious’ debts – which in this case is defined as falling seriously behind on payments or having utilities disconnected within the past year – you will be given two months (60 days) without fees, charges, interest or bailiff action, in which you can try to get back on top of your finances before your debts spiral out of control.

During this time you must engage with professional debt advisers, such as the team here at Debt Assist, so that you can find a long-term solution to your debts.

If you are receiving NHS treatment for mental health issues, you will not need to seek professional debt advice during these 60 days.

Life Saving Scheme

Helen Undy, chief executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “This scheme could genuinely save lives. Everyone experiencing a mental health crisis should have the opportunity to recover free from escalating debt fees, charges and the threat of bailiffs arriving at their door.

“We are delighted that the Government acted on our call to protect people from being hassled about debts while they’re receiving crisis care, and we look forward to working with ministers to put these plans in place over the coming year.”

Utility Bills

You Could Be Owed £886!

By | Financial Help, News

You Could Be Owed £886!

In a time when people are already struggling to pay their bills, it has been revealed that consumers have been overcharged a shocking £24bn on their utility bills according to new research from Citizens Advice. This equates to £886 per household.

Citizens Advice claim that ‘mistakes, errors in judgement and poor forecasts’ have led the regulators to put wrong values into their financial models. This, in turn, has led to your utility suppliers able to overcharge, whilst staying within the regulated amounts. And worse still, the charity reckons industry regulators’ – Ofcom for telecoms, Ofgem for energy, and Ofwat for water – have made these mistakes going back up to 15 years.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “Regulator error has meant customers have been charged too much by energy, broadband and phone networks for far too long.
“At a time when so many people are struggling to pay their essential bills, regulators need to do more to protect customers from unfair prices.
“They have started to take steps in the right direction but it is vital they continue to learn from their past mistakes when finalising their next price controls.
“Companies need to play their part in putting this multi-billion pound blunder right.
“They must compensate customers where they have been paying over the odds. If they don’t, Government needs to intervene.”

Compensation?

The charity is calling for the companies to offer their clients a rebate on their bills as well as ensuring this can’t happen. If people are not refunded, Citizens Advice are determined to call on the government to get involved.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Companies need to play their part in putting this multi-billion pound blunder right.

“They must compensate customers where they have been paying over the odds. If they don’t, Government needs to intervene.”

But it seems companies won’t be forthcoming with refunds – Ofcom, Ofgem, and Ofwat say it’ll be down to firms themselves to decide whether refunds are due.

What They Said…

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “Our decisions have helped customers benefit from more choice and better services.

“That involves making complex forecasts on the cost of finance, which Citizens Advice has found to be largely accurate. We’ll continue to encourage investment in broadband, while protecting customers from high charges.”

A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “Our decisions have helped customers benefit from more choice and better services.

“That involves making complex forecasts on the cost of finance, which Citizens Advice has found to be largely accurate. We’ll continue to encourage investment in broadband, while protecting customers from high charges.”

On energy, an Ofgem spokesperson said: “While we do not agree with Citizens Advice’s estimate of excess profits, we welcome its report and recommendations.

“We will continue to work closely with them and wider stakeholders to apply lessons learnt from previous price controls for the next price control period.”

Meanwhile, Ofwat chief executive, Rachel Fletcher added: “We welcome the recommendations from Citizens Advice and the work it and other consumer bodies do to highlight important issues around the affordability of essential services.

“We have already made changes to the way we set the cost of capital through our price review, so customers will not lose out.

“Our early view on the cost of capital for 2020 onwards is the lowest so far, and together with other measures would reduce customers’ bills by £15 to £25 (before inflation).”

How To Change Energy Supplier

Everyone knows you should change your energy supplier annually, but it seems harder work than it should.
Read Energy Seek’s guide switching energy suppliers for everything you need to know.

Debt of the Average Brit

By | Financial Help, News

Debt of the Average Brit

A new survey has found that the average adult in Britain has debts of £6,936.

The survey commissioned by Salary Finance shows that the average adult in Britain has debt of almost £7,000 – this excludes mortgages and student loans. Several worrying factors were also revealed in the survey.

One of the things revealed in the survey was that people only really consider themselves ‘in debt’ once they owe £3,882. However they only consider it a problem once this figure hits £6,000. It also revealed that 10% of people wouldn’t even worry until their debts were over £10,000!

Around 50% of those questioned say they believe that being in some level of debt is so normal that they don’t see it as a bad thing, and 30% admit that using a credit card, loan or overdraft is just a part of life.

Asesh Sarkar, CEO of Salary Finance, said: “In today’s world it is normal for people to have some kind of debt.

“However, these stats are telling, in that people are not tackling their debt until it reaches thousands of pounds, and by this stage it is causing them to worry and may be difficult to control.

“When you’re already seriously in the red, a one-off unexpected expense can cause major issues, leading to missed payments, bad credit and a situation where people are forced to turn to high interest borrowing to stay afloat.

“When people fail to tackle their debt until it is of significant worry to them, they find it much more difficult to get out of a spiral of debt.”

Get Help Now

Don’t wait until you’re in £10,000 worth of debt! Contact us now and get out of debt whilst you still can!

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Spending Soars on Payday!

By | Financial Help, News

Spending Soars on Payday!

A new survey has revealed that a third of people double their non-essential spending on payday.

Post Office Money ran a survey that found that people not only spend much more than they need to on payday, but they were also likely to ‘font-load’ their spending, meaning they spend at the start of the month.

Unfortunately, this feeling of wealth doesn’t last, with many people admitting they are struggling by the end of the month. 20% of people have said they dip into their savings to cover costs toward the end of the month.

Ross Hunter, head of product at Post Office Money said: “Saving can be hard, as anyone who has tried to stick to a budget knows.
“However, realising what can trigger your unconscious spending can give you back control and help improve your long-term savings potential.”

One of the biggest triggers was said to be ‘scrolling on their mobile’, coming in second and third were ‘having a bad day’ and ‘feeling stressed’. 10% of people questioned admit they find it hard to browse online without spending money.

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Personal Insolvencies in Scotland on the Rise

By | Financial Help, News

Personal Insolvencies in Scotland on the Rise

In 2018-19, the number of personal insolvencies in Scotland rose by 5%.

It is reported that there were 4,862 ‘awards’ of bankruptcy (sequestration) in Scotland and 7,917 protected trust deeds (PTDS) There was also a rise in the approvals of the debt arrangement scheme (DAS).

The Scottish government’s business secretary Jamie Hepburn said the figures highlighted “the challenging economic times we are facing with more Scots experiencing increased financial pressures”.

He added: “The ongoing uncertainty around EU exit, alongside the challenges of the roll-out of Universal Credit, bear much of the blame.

“In this climate it is more important than ever that people encountering financial difficulty seek early advice and the appropriate solution.

“It is welcome to see an increase in the number of Scots accessing the Scottish Debt Arrangement Scheme which helps them to pay back their debts. Recent reforms to the scheme will also allow more individuals in Scotland to benefit from this initiative going forward.

“The Scottish government urges those in financial distress to obtain money advice at the earliest possibility in order to take control of their finances and ensure the right debt solution is found to suit their circumstances.”

bailiff-worry

16% Rise in Problem Bailiffs

By | Financial Help, News

16% Rise in Problem Bailiffs

Citizens Advice has recently reported a sharp rise in the number of people who are seeking help with “bailiff-related issues”.

The numbers reported to Citizens Advice are shocking, with more 103,000 reported problems for 12 months up to March 31 this year. Not even mentioning that this is a 16% rise on the year before, the worrying aspect is that this is what is reported to Citizens Advice, meaning the number is MUCH higher.

“These figures are disappointing and reveal the harsh reality for people in debt,” said Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

At Debt Assist we can see that this increase is part of a wider-ranging problem with household debts. As we reported earlier in the year, one-in-three people in the UK are struggling to repay their household bills, and this often leads to bailiff action. Unfortunately not all bailiffs follow the rules; One-in-six reported incidents involved bailiffs “threatening to break in, or unlawfully doing so.”; Other worrying issues included bailiffs charging excessive fees and refusing to set up affordable repayment plans.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “There is absolutely no excuse for aggressive bailiff tactics, which is why we’re examining the case for an independent regulator as part of our call for evidence.”

Around 30% of people who have debt on their household bills have dealings with debt collectors and enforcement agents (bailiffs). Fortunately there may be something you can do about it.

IVAs Supercede Bailiff Action

An individual voluntary arrangement (better known as an IVA), is a legally-binding financial solution, whereby your creditors agree to an affordable repayment schedule. As it’s legally binding, bailiffs cannot intervene in order to recover the debts.

This means that if you are currently on an IVA, if bailiffs should come to your property, you can simply tell them you’re on an IVA (they’ll usually want to talk to us) and there is nothing more they can do.

For more information on IVAs, or any other debt solution, contact our award-winning advisers today. There is no fee for our help, and no obligation to use any of the debt solutions we may suggest to you (but we think you will). Simply complete the short form below and we’ll get back to you!

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