Your money advice

In recent months our Tenancy Support Officers (TSOs) have been dealing with an increase in the number of calls for help from residents in financial difficulties.

Here our team of TSOs have put together some advice on the issues residents ask them for help about most regularly.

I don’t have enough money to live on. What can I do?

We can help by running a financial check with you. We can check what benefits you are eligible for and help you to claim them, if you don’t already. Then we would discuss any debts you may have that are being taken out of your benefits and check whether you could qualify for money-saving energy tariffs and any other things to help you save money on essentials.

We’d also look at some of your outgoings and check whether any subscriptions and other non-essential payments could be stopped. It’s hard when your income is limited but we can help with tips to better manage the money you have.

I can’t afford to pay my rent.

In some cases, we can help you to apply to your local council for a one-off payment such as Discretionary Housing Payments to pay off your arrears or Homeless Prevention grants, designed to help those most in need. We can then work with you to draw up a rent payment plan that takes your financial situation into account.

What should I do?

  • Don’t hide away. Talk to your Housing Officer or your Tenancy Support Officer. If we don’t know that you’re struggling, we can’t help you.
  • We’ll run a benefits check to make sure that you are claiming all the financial support available to you.

I’ve spent all my money on bills and rent and have nothing left for food. 

Most food banks run on a referral scheme. We can provide you with a referral/food bank voucher if you are going through extreme hardship.

A food bank parcel usually contains enough food for three to five days, and sometimes essential toiletries. Food banks usually limit the number of parcels they give to a person.

The number of food bank vouchers we have given out has increased in recent months, so we would check how many vouchers you have had in the past six months. If you have reached the limit, usually a maximum of four every six months, we would run through a household budgeting exercise with you and discuss other financial support as food banks are meant to be a short-term solution.

There are a number of pantries in many of our communities, where you can join for a low fee, then pay a nominal fee of around £5 for a bag of food every week.

How can I apply for disability benefits like Personal Independence Payments (PIP)? 

We’re seeing more people applying for PIP this year. We can help you to complete your application for disability benefits, depending on the complexity of your circumstances.

We’ll discuss the type of PIP application you want to make and what health conditions you are currently experiencing.

We’ll then arrange a home visit to help you complete the application or sometimes we’ll refer you to another agency such as Citizens Advice or Welfare Rights if we think you need specialist input.

It can take two or three appointments, either on the phone or in person, to prepare the application. DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) should then contact you to arrange an assessment to see how your health condition affects you day to day.

I’ve been turned down for disability payments, can I appeal the decision?

If your application is turned down and you don’t agree with the decision, you can appeal.

We would refer you directly to our partners at Citizens Advice, who have experience in the appeals process. If you are going through an appeal, we can help you to fill in forms and gather paperwork and evidence that you need.

I’m in debt and threatened with court action. I’m worried, what can I do?

We can help you to get in touch with your creditors to put a hold on recovery actions such as enforcement or demand for payments.

We would then go through an income and expenditure questionnaire with you to look at your priority debts. These are the important payments such as rent, council tax, gas, electric and water bills and food.

From that you can work out how much you can afford to pay. Then we’ll help you to negotiate with the companies that you owe money.

If you have a lot of large debts, we might refer you to Citizens Advice for debt advice who can help with a variety of debt solutions including debt relief orders and arrangements to pay.

I’ve fallen behind with my council tax payments and don’t know what to do.

We can start by finding out how much you owe and for what tax years. Then we would check whether you are getting any council tax reductions.

If not, we can carry out a benefit check and help you to make a claim if you are eligible. In some cases, the payments can be backdated for three months. We can also check if you are eligible for a Single Person Discount and help you to apply.

We would also check the income of any other adults such as grown-up children or non-relatives, called non-dependants, living in the house. If their details are not correct, your council tax bill could be higher.

Then we’d go through a budget check with you to find out what you can afford to pay towards the debt. Once you identify how much you can afford to pay back, we would help you to put a payment plan to your council and also spread the council tax instalments over 12 months instead of the standard 10 months of the year.

If the council tax debt is significant, under threat of legal action or you have no available income to pay towards the debt, you could request a one month hold from council, this could buy you time to be referred to Citizens Advice for debt advice.

Cai Cox

PR & Communications Trainee