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Those who are in their 50s are susceptible to neglect and poverty from many different directions

‘I am thinking of getting my pension funds released to pay for my rent arrears - do you think my landlord will stop possession proceedings if I pay it all off once I get the funds?’
This is what one of my clients said to me when he first came to seek advice for his rent arrears. It was in September 2016. He was 56 years old but would not be eligible for the state pension for another decade. What struck me about him was his proposal to unlock his pension funds to pay for his rent arrears. It made me think about men in his age group, how they lived and how severe their financial and other problems can be and the challenges they face trying to rectify it. These are problems that, as things stand, will persist until their retirement age.
As I dug deeper into this gentleman’s personal circumstances, I discovered how he had fallen into poverty. His life was thrown into chaos once he was faced with early retirement. He previously worked for a local council and his role was made redundant. He w…

Ethnic Minority Communities are in extreme poverty in East London

I recently advised Shazna Rahman*, a Bangladeshi Muslim woman in Newham. She came to seek debt advice from me at Toynbee Hall, a charity in Tower Hamlets that helps communities in poverty. She was wearing full black burkah. This is a piece of clothing covering her body completely. It was not the manifestation of her faith that struck me most, but the reality of her difficult and hard life. Her children were taken away from her by Social Services because she was unfit to look after herself and her children due to a highly traumatised divorce that resulted in a mental breakdown. She moved from Tower Hamlets to Newham into private accommodation. She claimed housing benefit to pay for her rent.  After a few years, she became homeless when her private landlord wanted to rent the property out to a professional couple who would pay more. Newham council put her in temporary accommodation because she was deemed in priority need due to her mental health.
Her personal circumstances made me think …

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…