With the recent rise in the cost of living, housing costs (rentals and mortgages) are increasing along with utility and food bills. Nationally, Citizens Advice is seeing record numbers of clients seeking debt advice and many more of them are finding that their debts are increasing at the end of each month.
CRAIG* CAME TO SEE US WHEN HE LOST HIS JOB:
Craig was a single man in his fifties. He had been struggling financially before he lost his job. He had worked all his life and had never had to claim benefits before. Now he needed help quickly to make the best of his situation.
OUR ADVISER HELPED HIM WITH BENEFIT AND HOUSING APPLICATIONS:
As Craig had been working our advisers helped him to find out if he had made enough National Insurance contributions in the last 2-3 years to qualify for a New Style Job-Seekers allowance, a contributions based allowance.
We also helped him to set up an application for Universal Credit. This included setting up a government gateway account and ID verification, data on previous 12 months income and his tenancy agreement confirming his monthly rent. (Any New Style Job-Seekers allowance would be regarded as income for Universal Credit purposes.) Craig was told that he would be able to ask for an advance on his Universal Credit (rather than having to wait until the end of the first month for payment) but, if he did, this would then be reclaimed through deductions from his payments.
Craig rents a one bed flat and pays £900 per month for this. He will be able to claim a housing element within his Universal Credit, but the maximum he can claim will depend on the Local Housing Allowance, which was last revised in 2020 and would leave Craig with at least £100 per month to make up.
Craig can ask his local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment but there is no guarantee that he will get this.
He can also ask for Council Tax support.
Because his housing situation is precarious our adviser suggested that he applies to go on to the local authority housing list but there is a 3-5 year waiting period.
NEXT STEPS FOR CRAIG:
Craig thanked the adviser for the help which we had given him over several visits to his local office but knew that even with all the help he had received, the situation was not sustainable and his priority now was to try to find a new job.
*Not his real name to protect confidentiality
NEXT STEPS FOR CRAIG’S ADVISER:
There were two issues which stood out to the adviser as important to flag to National Policy colleagues at Citizens Advice, so that they would have evidence with which to make a case for change to those who were in control of them.
The adviser explained to Craig that he would like to send in anonymous evidence forms based on Craig’s experience which would highlight the effect that these policies were having on those who were seeking help from Citizens Advice. Craig was pleased that the adviser should do this as it could bring about welcome change for everyone.
- Local Housing Allowance – needs to be updated to take account of last three years of rent rises.
- Deductions from benefits should be smaller and spread over a longer period.
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN DIFFICULTIES, PLEASE CONTACT US AT YOUR LOCAL OFFICE
Citizens Advice South West Surrey contact details:
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Citizens Advice Mole Valley contact details:
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