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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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household-bill-debts

Bills Just Got More Expensive

By | Financial Help, News

Bills Just Got More Expensive

From April 1st your household bills got that little bit more expensive.

Often referred to as National Price-Hike Day April 1st is the date when many price increases came into effect around the UK. From water and energy bills, to medical prescriptions, you’re likely to pay more in 2019. It has been estimated in some circles to cost the average householder an extra £240 per year!

Phone Bills

The major phone providers are going to increase their prices by around 2.5%. This includes O2, Three, Vodaphone and EE.

Sky TV Bills

Sky TV have said that they will increase the prices for TV and broadband by £1 or £2 a month (averaging at £3.50). So it will increase your bill by about £42 per year!

Energy Bills

If you are on a standard variable tariff for your energy bills, expect to be hit hard. 36 suppliers are increasing (or already have done) their prices by over 10%!

Water Bills

The average household will see their water bills rise by up to 2%.

Council Tax

This is the second highest council tax increase in a decade, meaning that the average UK household will be paying £78 more this year.

TV Licence

Your TV licence fee will increase by £4.

NHS Prescriptions

The NHS prescription fee will increase by 20p, taking the cost up to £9.

Household Debt Problems

Although (most of) these are only slight increases, they all add up, pushing many households who are struggling to repay their household bills over the edge. If you are struggling to repay your household bills, contact our trained advisers for no-obligation help and advice.

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samaritans-debt

Real People, Real Stories

By | Financial Help, News

Real People, Real Stories

41% of men in England, Scotland and Wales, aged 20-59, do not seek support as they prefer to solve their own problems. This is according to a new survey from the Samaritans. This is backed up by our own data; almost twice as many women reach out to us for help with their debts than men (65% to 35%).

As a result of the data, Samaritans launched a campaign called Real People, Real Stories. The campaign sees men who have overcome tough times share their stories to encourage men, who are most at risk of suicide, to seek help by contacting Samaritans 24/7 free on 116 123 or Samaritans.org.

Paul McDonald, Executive Director of External Affairs at Samaritans, said: “We didn’t want to create just another awareness campaign. We wanted something authentic and emotive from men who have been through tough times, sharing their really powerful, positive and hopeful stories to encourage other men to seek help before they reach crisis point.”

“Our survey results found that although 78% of men aged 20-59 say it’s okay to admit you’re not feeling okay, many still avoid speaking out when they’re finding life tough. A quarter (25%) felt their problems weren’t important enough to warrant calling a helpline, which is one of the reasons this awareness campaign is so important.”

The survey found that some of the main reasons why these men find life tough and struggle include debt or financial worries (36%), relationship breakdown or family problems (30%), loneliness or isolation (29%) and job loss or job-related problems (25%).

Real People Real Stories

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50, with men aged 20-59 at the biggest risk of suicide. Our new awareness campaign in partnership with Network Rail shares real stories from men who have been through tough times, encouraging other men to seek help when they need it. http://ow.ly/1BvC30o5TmV #RealPeopleRealStories 📱 116 123 📧 jo@samaritans.org

Posted by Samaritans on Monday, 18 March 2019

If you’ve stopped doing things you usually love, you’re tearful, not eating or sleeping properly, drifting from people close to you, taking alcohol or drugs to cope or self-harming, then please talk to the Samaritans today, or someone you trust.

Call them on 116 123 or email them at jo@samaritans.org

Struggling to Cope?

Signs to look for:

  • Lacking energy or feeling tired
  • Feeling exhausted all the time
  • Experiencing ‘brain fog’, find it hard to think clearly
  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Feelings restless and agitated
  • Feeling tearful, wanting or cry all the time
  • Not wanting to talk to or be with people
  • Not wanting to do things you usually enjoy
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings
  • Finding it hard to cope with everyday things and tasks
  • Experiencing ‘burn out’

If you don’t see what you’re feeling on this list, please still get in touch.

And if you do think these symptoms sound like you, or someone you know, please still get in touch with the Samaritans on 116 123 or at jo@samaritans.org.

They can also help if you are worried about someone else too.

Samaritans Debt Help
gambling-and-suicide

Problem Gamblers 15 Times More Likely To Commit Suicide

By | Financial Help, News

Problem Gamblers 15 Times More Likely To Commit Suicide

People with gambling problems are 15 times more likely to commit suicide.

A recent report from academics at Lund University in Sweden, conducted the largest study of its kind, and found “a significantly elevated risk of suicide among participants compared with the general population over an 11-year period.”

The study found that the suicide rate of men, aged between 20 and 49, increased 19 times if they had a gambling problem. This reduces slightly to 15 times when looking at men and women across all ages.

It has been said that if the figures were applied to the UK, then gambling would account for around 550 suicides a year (or more than ten per week).

“This research confirms the high number of gambling-related suicides that Gambling with Lives families brought to public attention after the deaths of our children,” said Charles and Liz Ritchie, who founded the charity after their son Jack took his own life aged 24 following a gambling addiction.

“The lack of recognition of the scale of this problem has been shocking and we call on the government to take immediate action to save lives.”

Gambling and Debt

Click here for more

GamStop

GamStop.co.uk

GamStop is a free service that lets you put controls in place to restrict your online gambling activities. You will be prevented from using gambling websites and apps run by companies licensed in Great Britain, for a period of your choosing.

Learn More

Useful Contacts

Call GamCare on 0808 8020 133 8am – midnight or visit their website at GamCare.org.uk

Talking to people in a similar position is a great way to help yourself. Support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous or SMART Recovery can help put you in touch with people to help keep your gambling under control.

Gambling with Lives – Supporting families bereaved by gambling. Raising awareness of the dangers of gambling. Call 07864 299158.

Samaritans – For Everyone – 116 123
Campaign Against Living Miserably – For Men – 0800 585858
Papyrus – Under 35 Year Olds – 0800 068 41 41

Anders Hakansson, professor of addiction medicine at Lund University and a psychiatrist in a gambling disorder unit, stated, “The causes [of suicide] are very likely to be multi-factoral but it’s likely that some will contribute more than others.”

He said it was hard to isolate the role played by gambling, citing co-morbidity, which refers to the existence of multiple overlapping factors that may be present in subjects who take their own life.

For instance, if a subject was diagnosed with depression as well as a gambling disorder, the likelihood of suicide increased even further but the risk did not appear to rise if substance misuse was added.

He said: “It’s not difficult to argue that gambling contributes very strongly to suicidal thinking, especially when debts are so severe that suicide becomes part of the solution a person thinks about in that kind of crisis, with the feeling of what you have caused to your family members.”

If you are struggling with gambling, please contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org, then read our Gambling and Debt page for more information.

XBox One X on BrightHouse

By | Financial Help

XBox One X on BrightHouse

We’ve recently had a client who was paying for an XBox One X through BrightHouse. When we looked into it, what we found was shocking.

BrightHouse

Xbox One X. 1TB. Forza 7 & Horizon 4 Bundle

  • Product Price: £606.44
  • Weekly Payment: £9.75
  • Number of Weeks: 130
  • APR: 99.9%
  • Total Payable: £1,267.50

Currys – PC World

Xbox One X. 1TB. Forza 7 & Horizon 4 Bundle

  • Product Price: £379.00
  • Monthly Payment: £14.56
  • Number of Months: 36
  • APR: 24.9%
  • Total Payable: £524.16

Firstly, I will say that £10 a week for an XBox One, sounds like a great deal. However, when you look a little closer, the total repayment of £1,267.50 is scandalous! You can buy THREE of the same product from Currys (and this isn’t an advert for Currys, there are probably cheaper deals than this out there. Shop around)! Even if you take out credit at Currys, it works out an amazing £743.34 cheaper!

On top of that, even the basic product price from BrightHouse is more expensive than Currys’ price after interest is added on.

Prices correct as of 21-02-2019.

In Short…

We understand that there are sometimes situations when companies such as BrightHouse are needed, and we’re not here to tell you the obvious that £500 is less than £1,200. However… if you genuinely NEED something, please shop around, and look at the long-term cost.