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Current Welfare Reform putting poorer communities into destitution

I have noticed a dramatic change in my line of work as a debt adviser following the introduction of Universal Credit in 2013.  It has become common to see clients who are in rent and council tax arrears. In areas where it was initially rolled-out, 73% of claimants were in arrears and owed on average £772. Ian Duncan Smith, former Secretary of Department for Work and Pensions, stated that the policy was meant to take people out of poverty.  Its impact has been to the contrary. 
It was one of several welfare reforms introduced by the 2010-15 Coalition Government under the Welfare Reform Act 2012 which was planned for implementation by March 2022 as part of overall austerity measures.

Universal Credit replaces the following benefits: Job Seekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. Universal Credit affected claimants of working age. Claimants would now receive the benefit monthly and would be responsible for managing their money…
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What is to be done with scammers who prey on your money?

In 2016 in the United Kingdom, according to the National Crime Survey, you were 10 times more likely to be robbed at your computer by someone based in another country than be a victim of physical theft. Financial losses due to being a victim of fraud in such a scenario can be quantified and maybe refundable. Mental and emotional suffering caused by these perpetrators may be a life changing experience for so many vulnerable individuals. How can you avoid minimising devastating financial losses? What remedies do you have available if you have been a victim of such a horrific crime? Are you entitled to any form of support when you have been the victim of scammers?
Iknow someone who refused to speak about being a victim of a scam in public due to the shame involved. He is a pensioner in his late 70s. He lives alone. He was a proud independent and self-sufficient man. He managed his money meticulously.  His life changed dramatically once he became a victim of a sophisticated scam.
This is hi…

Is Council Tax really Poll Tax? Where is the momentum for a new campaign?

 ‘I have not been able to pay my council tax for last four years. Bailiffs have lied to me to get money from me. I still can’t afford it!’ says Joanna Robinson on Money Matters show on East London Radio in March 2018. During the period 2016-17, bailiffs were used by councils on nearly 1.5 million occasions in order to attempt recovery of council tax arrears. As in Joanna's case, residents were summoned to court for being too poor to pay - accruing court costs, subjected to the ignominy and anxiety having to face enforcement agents, and already too poor to pay, further indebtedness .  As I hear the horror stories of bailiff’s knocking on debtors’ doors under the new Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS), I am beginning to worry that the Scheme is really just a Poll Tax rehash.
I was too young to remember what the Poll Tax was when it was first introduced in the late 1980s. My parents never spoke about it. In my work I started to notice from 2013 onwards that more debtors were seeking …

Christmas is over - what responsibilities do creditors have now?

I noticed how busy members of staff at the London Community Credit Union (LCCU) were during the Christmas festive period. They were very equipped for the season by hiring extra staff. Creditors undeniably know that the period leading up to Christmas is one of their busiest. During the same period, for me, as a debt adviser, its one of the quietest. 
Why is it so busy for them and least busy for me? The answer lends itself to supply and demand theory: consumers are borrowing to put Christmas presents underneath Christmas trees for their loved ones and spending on parties leading up to the New Year and holidays. In such an atmosphere, consumers are less likely to think about their debts but more likely to spend - spend - spend. The unwritten policy held by lenders during this time is to open their doors to borrowers to accommodate their seasonal borrowing habit. There is no doubt profit to be made on the return for credit.
The Bank of England states that on average a typical household in …

Non-British nationals face harsh penalty for non-payment of debts

If you are a non-British national, trying to ascertain your rights in the United Kingdom can be a difficult process, perhaps more so than if you are a British national.  In addition, your immigration status will also affect the support that you may receive from the Welfare State. For example, non-payment of an unforeseen medical bill may have negative consequences for decisions relating to applications for British Citizenship.
Britain is currently negotiating an exit from the European Union as a direct result of the implementation of Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union. Thus far European Economic Area (EEA) citizens have the right to settle in the UK if they have already lived in the country for five years. Many of the EEA nationals are, to a degree, entitled to welfare support so long as they meet a number of tests, including the draconian Habitual Residence test. Once the tests have been met, they are entitled to benefits on the same terms as if they were British citizens.…

Illegal and high interest lenders are not the only solution - plan your finances!

lllegal lending and loan sharks are not widely talked about in our local communities. Most of our attention has been given to payday loan and mainstream lenders who prey on vulnerable debtors due to their high interest and charges.  My experience as a debt advisor has taught me that a substantial proportion of those from deprived communities who seek debt advice are unaware of the differences between illegal lending, payday loans and pawnbroking.  
The distinction between an illegal lender and a legal one rests on the failure of the illegal lender to seek approval to operate as a commercial lender, from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), as the regulator of financial services in the UK. According to provisions of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, any UK financial activities have to be regulated by the FCA unless legally exempted from such regulation. 
In the following report published by the regulator: Shining a light on illegal money lending: consumer experiences of unau…

Tough times continue for those with disabilities

There has been some improvement in the way disability is perceived by the general public. However, we still have a long way to go to address issues for those with disabilities in terms of access to services and with managing financial difficulties. 


A survey conducted by Scope, a national disability charity, indicated that the percentage of disabled students bullied at school declined from 47% in 1994 to 38% in 2014. However, the same survey found that there had been an increase in the percentage of those with disabilities turned away from public places from 34% in 1994 to 49% in 2014. A similar concern arose in terms of those with disabilities expressing concerns about being unable to makes ends meet - 39% in 1994 rising to 49% in 2014. 

Many have turned to the use of credit cards and loans to pay for essential items such as food and clothing. There has also been considerable use of food banks to meet basic nutritional need. It is well documented evidence that those with disabilities s…