Lucy, our money advisor, can offer you friendly and confidential advice in the following areas:
- Ensuring you are getting all the benefits and income you are entitled to including assistance in applying for PIP/grants.
- Understanding changes to the benefits system, including Universal Credit.
- Helping you to prioritise how you spend your money to ensure you pay the most important bills first and don’t get into arrears.
- How to deal with debts and to help you manage your arrears, we’ll happily signpost to specialist agencies to assist.
- Getting the best deals on utility bills and phone contracts.
- Saving money and considering comparisons for affordable loans.
- How to avoid loan sharks, payday loans and high cost rent to own schemes for your essential items.
Top tips from Lucy
There is help and support available for you, and there are practical steps that you can take to improve your financial situation. Remember, small changes can have a big impact.
Do you have a question for our money advisor?
Our money advisor, Lucy, is available to our customers for advice about benefits, budgeting, accessing grants, and specialist advice organisations.
Have you got a question about your finances, money management or benefit entitlement? If so, ask Lucy here.
Dear Lucy. I’m a pensioner who has no savings. I have a small occupational pension and state pension and I'm really worried about heating my home. Can you help me?
There are many people in a similar situation to you, and rising energy costs is a big worry for everyone at the moment. You are not alone, and we are here to help in any way that we can.
First of all I would recommend you look into making sure you are getting all of the income you are entitled to. There are some really handy websites out there that you can use to check your benefits, like entitledto.co.uk. We have a friendly team of income coaches who are available to help and support you in finding the information you need. They are available to chat over the phone or face-to face.
Dear Lucy. I need the internet for my children so they can keep up with school work as well as keeping in touch with their friends but I can no longer afford the package that I was on.
It's important to know what date your contract is due to end, make a note of it so you can search for a better deal in plenty of time. There are lots of search providers out there but remember not all deals are on all sites, so make sure you know what you need before you accept an offer, broadband-only connection, or a phone and TV package included. A social tariff could help you, find out more below.
Dear Lucy. I am behind with my council tax payments and don’t know what to do.
Council tax is a priority debt because the council has strong powers to make you pay. This means you should pay council tax before paying non-priority debts such as credit cards or unsecured loans. Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to a reduction to, or discount on, your council tax bill. This could mean that you do not have to pay all, or part, of your council tax bill.
Dear Lucy. I’ve recently lost my job as a carer and I'm struggling to make ends meet. I’ve got three kids at home and I haven't always got enough food to feed them. I feel like I'm failing both in work and at home, can you help me? I don't know who to turn to.
I'm so sorry to hear that you have lost your job. I meet many people in your situation and the first two pieces of advice I always give are; firstly, check if you are entitled to benefits, and secondly, is there a way to reduce your household expenditure whilst you are going through this difficult period? There are grants available that you may be entitled to which will support you with things like childcare costs and school uniform. If you are struggling with food you can access your local food bank. We can also provide you with a food bank voucher to give you access to food in an emergency situation. Our income coaches can also help signpost you to agencies that can help get you back into work and we have a number of vacancies available.
Council tax reduction
If you are on a low income, you may be entitled to council tax reduction, contact your local council to ask them to send you an application form. You may be able to get a discount to reduce your council tax bill if you are the only adult in the property or you share your house only with people who are not counted for council tax purposes.
Examples of people who are not counted include: A full-time student or student nurse, an apprentice or someone on a youth training scheme (only certain ones apply) or someone with a mental disability who is getting certain disability benefits.
Council tax liability order
If you fall behind with council tax payments, the council may apply to the magistrates' court to make a 'liability order'. This is a court order that states that you owe council tax but have not paid it. The council will also add on any court costs they have had to pay.
If you are having trouble keeping up with your council tax payments, don't just stop paying. Contact your council and explain you are having difficulty. They may be able to agree a new payment plan with you. If you do this quickly, the council may not apply for a liability order. If you have applied for help with your council tax bill, make sure the council is aware of this. They may be willing to wait until your claim is dealt with before applying for the liability order. The sooner you get help the better always seek advice, you can contact Hafod, Citizens Advice Bureau or Stepchange debt charity who will explain all your options.
How a social tariff could help you
Social tariffs are cheaper broadband and phone packages for people claiming Universal Credit, Pension Credit and some other benefits. Some providers call them ‘essential’ or ‘basic’ broadband. They’re delivered in the same way as normal packages, just at a lower price.
If you or someone in your household claims Universal Credit, you could switch to any of the tariffs available. It's cheaper than a regular package. Current prices range from £10 to £20. Fast, unlimited broadband. Most tariffs offer superfast broadband at speeds over 30 Mbit/s – fast enough for you to keep in touch with friends and family, stream HD films or shop online.
You'll pay next-to-nothing to get set up. If you do have to pay any setup costs, these should only be small. Your provider should tell you before you sign up. It could cost nothing to switch. If your provider offers a social tariff, you can switch to it at any time, free of charge.
The price won't go up mid-contract. You won't pay any more than what you agree at the start of the contract. It costs nothing to leave. You won't pay a fee to leave the tariff before the end of your contract.
Do I qualify for a social tariff?
If you or someone in your household claims Universal Credit, you could switch to any of the tariffs available. All major providers also include people on Pension Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support. Some providers might include additional benefits, like Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance. The person receiving the benefit needs to be the main person on the contract.
How to apply
Visit current providers and look at the different rates to view the different providers and costs. Then contact your current provider to check if they offer a social tariff and discuss your options. You may need to speak to them directly as they don’t always show social tariff options on their website.