The Money Advice Service has launched a new free online service to help people to manage their debts. The Money Advice Service Debt advice locator aims to help people find organisations able to give them access to free and impartial debt advice.
Money Advice Service’s Chief Executive, Caroline Rookes, said: “If someone is struggling to pay day-to-day bills, or to keep up with loan repayments and other financial commitments, it can be hard to know where to turn for help. That’s why we’ve developed our Debt Advice Locator – which helps people find free, confidential and impartial debt advice near where they live or work.”
The debt advice locator site provides information about partner organisations that can help, such as the National Debtline and StepChange Debt Charity, as well as telephone services that allow people to speak directly with an expert adviser. Most importantly the face to face debt advice search tool allows you to type in your location and instantly find local organisations that give free advice on managing finances and dealing with debt.
The Money Advice Service is an independent service set up by the Government to help people manage their money better. It provides a wealth of other online information, where partners and claimants can access extra support material on how to budget.
For more information please visit the website here: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/tools/debt-advice-locator
Did you know that you can be fined up to £1,000 if you are caught watching TV without a licence?
TV Licensing is working with local organisations across the West Midlands to ensure that people are aware of the circumstances when they have a legal responsibility to have a TV Licence. Put simply, you need to be covered by a valid TV Licence to receive or record television programmes as they are being shown on TV. This is the case whether you are receiving the programmes via TV or any other device, such as a mobile phone or a PC.
TV Licensing understands that some people find it hard to pay the annual fee in one go. For this reason, there are a number of different ways to pay for a TV Licence.
- The TV Licensing Payment Card is designed to make buying a TV Licence easier for those who struggle to pay in one lump sum by allowing them to spread the cost into weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments.
- Use a PayPoint outlet to pay by cash or debit/credit card. PayPoint outlets can be found in newsagents, convenience stores, supermarkets, petrol stations and other retailers. To find your nearest PayPoint, visit www.paypoint.co.uk/locator.htm
- Pay by Direct Debit, now used by over 14 million licence fee payers.
- Pay via the TV Licensing website.
- Pay over the phone.
- Or put a cheque in the post.
If English isn’t your first language, information can be provided in 18 different languages on the TV Licensing website or via leaflets. TV Licensing also offers a translation service over the phone in over 180 languages.
If you would like more information about any of these methods of paying, or want to buy a TV Licence, please call 0300 790 6115 or visit www.tvlicensing.co.uk.
For translation over the telephone please call 0300 790 6044 or to order leaflets in foreign languages please call 01564 829 024.
Birmingham Settlement partner Severn Trent Trust Fund (STTF) has been running a campaign called #smallchange on social media to share some little practical tips that can help you to save your money. The idea is that making small changes in your daily life needn’t be difficult and can have a big impact on the money you have available.
Some of our favourite tips shared so far include:
- Allocate a budget for the week and take it out in cash. Paying with tangible money makes you think about what you spend.
- Make a shopping list before you food shop, it avoids impulse buys so you only get what you really need.
- Ditch the ready meals and start making bargain dinners by hand – think soup, or pasta and veg.
- Don’t waste money on bottled water, simply re-fill an old bottle.
- Cut ends off toothpaste tubes – there’s at least another 10 brushes in there!
- Plan ahead – with summer holidays fast approaching, think up some fun imagination games to keep the kids happy for free.
- Put a set amount of cash in a tin to last a month. Dish out to kids for those ‘extras’. Once the tin is empty, no more extras!
Join the conversation on Twitter using the #smallchange tag.
Image thanks to Johan Larsson.
Birmingham Settlement’s Money Advice team are always seeking to be at the forefront in the use of technology. It’s all about improving the client’s experience of the service we provide and ensuring we do what we do well and effectively.
Mark Greveson, Financial Inclusion Manager, says “Our outreach workers already have the use of laptops and superb software to take services into the clients home and at access points around the city and beyond. The use of portable printers enables letters and information to be printed out wherever we go. The reality is exciting, it’s a mobile service that takes our expertise anywhere.”
So what’s new? You might say. The advisors have been using this equipment for many years. For the team its not about being content with doing things well, it’s always how we we can do it better!
Mark Greveson says, “We always have a lot of information presented to us when we see clients outside of the office environment. This involves copying down information or having to take documents away from the client to action at a later time. But that’s all about to change with the introduction of portable hand held scanners! This device is being introduced to enable us to scan and save document images wherever we are offering a service.”
The new Iriscan hand held scanner is small, lightweight and easy to use and gives its user the ability to not only save images to the device but also to transfer them via the web using a linked Android device.
Excellent technology is not a replacement for excellent advice and advocacy. Birmingham Settlement’s Money Advice team have highly skilled and experienced advisors and the new technology will improve the way they provide advice in the communities they serve.
Birmingham Settlement’s Money Advice Centre has expanded its delivery of debt and benefits advice for new organisations, client groups and locations, helping to improve access to financial advice for people who desperately need it in Birmingham and beyond, including:
- Probation Services: Birmingham Settlement has been awarded a two year contract with Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust to deliver money advice to ex-offenders. We know from experience that finances are often difficult following release from prison and money is one of the biggest factors affecting reoffending. By delivering money advice to ex-offenders throughout Staffordshire and the West Midlands we will provide real benefit to their futures by improving their financial capabilities and resolving any difficulties they may be facing, such as debt. Effective and early interventions including money advice impact on the wider region by reducing re-offending rates, making communities safer for everybody. This project will start in July 2014.
- Foodbank: After a brief hiatus, Birmingham Settlement now has two money advisers back in Birmingham Central Foodbank, helping to provide advice on debt, benefits and financial planning to people who are struggling to afford food. We are pleased to support those attending the Foodbank, a service becoming more and more crucial in people’s daily lives. Patricia from the foodbank said, “Being able to provide financial literacy advice to clients referred to the foodbank is now a vital part of the service. Having an adviser on site has meant that clients could face their financial crisis and get help and support while at the foodbank rather than being signposted elsewhere.“
- Outreach: We have recently begun delivering advice in a credit union and library in Ladywood, helping to bring advice services to where people already are, making advisers more accessible to the public.
For more information about our range of debt and benefits advice please contact us.
On Thursday 24th April Birmingham Settlement are holding a Community Fun Day for families to bring their children to, with a range of fun spring activities to keep children entertained during the school holidays. Also available on the day will be one-to-one support for parents on a range of topics including looking for work, family support and money advice. We hope to build parent’s confidence and skills in these areas, helping to improve their job prospects, money management and parenting skills. We can help with:
- Helping decide which jobs best suit your skills.
- Searching for work.
- How to put together CVs and job applications.
- Finding and getting onto the right courses.
- Finding volunteer roles that will support your job search.
- Family support from a qualified family support worker.
- Debt and benefits advice from a qualified money adviser.
- A recruitment specialist will also be available to provide advice.
The event is free to attend for everybody and will take place from 10:30am-2:30pm on Thursday 24th April 2014 at the Centre for the Aston Family, 359-361 Witton Road, Aston, Birmingham B6 6NS.
For further information please download the flyer below or call Siobhan Sadlier on 0121 250 0777.
From Monday 17th February 2014 our money advice centre opening times are changing. This is in order to accommodate as many clients as possible, reduce waiting times and ensure we can better meet the needs of clients with specific needs.
On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays we’ll be open from 9:15am-12:30pm. You don’t need to make an appointment beforehand, but you do need to come in at 9am to be allocated a slot for the same day. Slots are allocated on a first-come first-served basis so the sooner you arrive the better. You will be told what time an adviser will be seeing you so you can either wait to be seen or you can come back later, it is up to you.
We will also be open on Wednesdays from 9:30am-3:30pm for people with appointments only. You can be given an appointment when you come in or you can telephone us. Not everybody will be given an appointment; appointments will be prioritised based on your circumstances (e.g. if you have an emergency or are unable to come in to the centre) as well as for new clients who have been unable to get a slot on our drop-in days, guaranteeing you will be seen.
For more information about our money advice services please click here.
It’s Debt Awareness Week, the perfect opportunity for re-assessing your finances post-Christmas to find out if you need help, and where to get it.
“The combination of changes to welfare benefits and rising household costs is taking its toll,” says Birmingham Settlement CEO Martin Holcombe. “Our debt advice service has seen record numbers and we now have to turn people away as we just don‘t have the resources to meet the demand.”
Recent figures released by the Money Advice Service paint a similar picture. They report that one in three UK adults is estimated to have started 2014 in debt, and figures released this January for the end of 2013 paint a bleak picture with the average household debt at £6,016 without including mortgages.
“We have put together our top ten tips to help families budget and help them manage their money better. This year, more than ever, people need help controlling their finances” says Martin, they include:
1. Compile a weekly budget and keep to it. Work out your spending limit after bills for food and drink.
2. Cut back on unnecessary expenses. Make shopping lists and do not be distracted by bargains. Ask yourself: “If I didn’t need something this morning, do I really need it now?” Be wary of tempting 2 for 1s on products you did not intend to buy.
3. Buy supermarkets’ own brands, the reduced price is often down to lower spend on packaging rather than lower quality products.
4. Shop online for cheaper items rather than the High Street, but check delivery costs as these can often put up the total costs.
5. Try home-made gifts. If you are looking for a birthday gift, why not bake one?
6. Ensure that you continue to pay your priority debts such as mortgages, rent, and Council Tax, fuel and court fines – if you’re unsure how to order your priorities, speak to a money advice service.
7. Consider applying for financial help if you are in debt and struggling. Birmingham Council has discretionary top-up funds for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support. Some utility companies have independent Trust Funds – Severn Trent Water, British Gas, EDF and NPower, for example.
8. Do not spend money that you do not have! But if you need to borrow money, be aware of the interest rate and amount repayable. Payday loans are not cheap.
9. Don’t hold on to unwanted items – eBay them! Whether it’s duplicate wedding gifts, unwanted Christmas presents, or simply clothes you never wear, you could convert your clutter to cash.
Debt is such a big issue now in our society, with many more people than ever before having to deal with the consequences of not having enough money to make ends meet that I wanted to share with you some of our stories.
At the moment we are campaigning and I would like to ask for your support. We are asking politicians to do something tangible that will make a difference for those suffering real financial hardship. The combination of changes to welfare benefits and rising household costs is taking its toll, our debt advice service has seen record numbers and we now have to turn people away as we just don‘t have the resources to meet the demand.
We have suggested a practical measure that could really make a difference. We are asking the energy companies to give every household access to an hour’s supply a day irrespective of debt and personal circumstance – this means if prepayment meters have no credit fuel would still be available for one hour everyday – we suggest between 12 noon and 1 pm. Energy providers (electric and gas) have the technology to make this happen. The residential supply of water cannot be legally disconnected, where as fuel is increasingly disconnected; and to the poorest families in our society. This is wrong! Profit making energy companies need to show social responsibility – support society by putting more back, and now!
Please sign our epetition to ask the Government to legislate for the basic human right for every household to be able to cook a hot meal each day under a Fuel for Food campaign – you can support us by signing the e-petition here.
You can also read more by visiting Birmingham Settlement’s blog here.
With very best wishes for the festive season.
Image thanks to Christine Rutz.
As winter accelerates and the Christmas season approaches, costs can sky-rocket, from heating your home, to buying presents and treats. Here are Birmingham Settlement’s top tips this winter to avoid a financial headache.
1) Compile a Christmas budget and keep to it. Work out your spending limit for presents, food and drink.
2) Cut back on unnecessary expenses. Make shopping lists and do not be tempted by bargains. Ask yourself: “If I didn’t need something this morning, do I really need it now?” Be wary of spending in the post-Christmas sales.
3) Buy supermarkets’ own brands.
4) Shop online for cheaper items rather than the High Street, but check delivery costs as these can often put up the total costs.
5) Make your own cakes, bread and Christmas decorations!
6) Ensure that you continue to pay your priority debts such as mortgages, rent, Council Tax, fuel and court fines.
7) Consider applying for financial help if you are in debt and struggling. Birmingham Council has discretionary top-up funds for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support. Some utility companies have independent Trust Funds – Severn Trent Water, British Gas, EDF and NPower, for example.
8) Do not spend money that you do not have! But if you need to borrow money, be aware of the interest rate and amount repayable. Payday loans are not cheap.
9) Check that you are receiving your correct benefits. You can use online benefit assessors such as “Entitledto”.
10) Write a New Year’s Resolution to control your spending and open a savings or credit union account.
And don’t forget, Birmingham Settlement has begun an e-petition to ask the Government to legislate for the basic human right for every household to be able to cook a hot meal each day under a Fuel for Food campaign – you can support us by signing the e-petition here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/56536