What help is there if your finances are tight?

Please get in touch with us at Maldon & District Citizens Advice by filling out the enquiry form on our website https://maldoncitizensadvice.org.uk or by telephoning 01621 875774.

These are a few of the things we could help you with:

  • Are you getting all the benefits to which you are entitled?
  • What effect would changes in working hours/rates have on your benefits?
  • Are you getting the right child maintenance for your children?
  • Are other adults living in your home making appropriate contributions?
  • Depending on who is living in the house, is your council tax bill right?
  • Look at ways of cutting bills and expenses.
  • Reducing rates of deductions being taken from your benefits
  • Explore grants or special tariffs
  • Looking at your debts and options for dealing with these, including making offers to creditors, or, in some cases, getting the debts written off.

For more information on saving energy and reducing your bills please visit Homepage - Warm Homes Essex

 

Government Announcement

In addition to the help that the government had announced earlier this year, the Autumn Statement outlined changes which will benefit some people next April (2023). These include:

  1. An increase in benefits in line with inflation – 10.1%
  2. Additional Cost of Living payment of £900 per household. Households who receive the following benefits are eligible for the payment:
  • Universal Credit
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit

In addition, eligible pensioners will receive an extra £300 cost of living payment and those on non-means tested disability benefits will receive an additional £150.

  1. Changes to the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage as follows:
  • For 21-22 year olds the rate will increase to £10.18
  • For 18-20 year olds the rate will increase to £7.49
  • For 16-17 year olds the rate will increase to £5.28
  • For apprentices the rate will increase to £5.28
  1. An additional £1 billion of funding to the Household Support Fund which helps local authorities assist those who need it most
  2. Social Housing Rent will only be able to rise by a maximum of 7% in 2023-24

 

If you're struggling to afford essential food items there are various places you can go for both food and other household items. Locations include:

  • MALDON – The Food Pantry at Elim Church, 17 Wantz Road CM9 5DB Wednesdays 9:30am-1pm Food Pantry ← Elim Maldon Please contact Maldon Citizens Advice first on 01621 875774 to get a referral.
  • SOUTHMINSTER – Dengie Food Pantry at United Reformed Church, North Street CM0 7DF Wednesdays 10am-12pm. Please contact Maldon Citizens Advice first on 01621 875774 to get a referral.
  • TOLLESBURY – Food Larder at The Centre, Congregational Church, East Street, CM9 8QD. Call 07941019750 or 07742 538171. Mondays 10am-12pm Village Larder at Tollesbury Hub - Maldon District Connects No referral required.

 

As we know, with the increasing price of fuel, heating your home can become a challenge. There are several ‘Warm Hubs’ across the district which provide a warm place, hot food and hot drinks. Locations include:

  • BURNHAM – Burnham Baptist Church, Station Road, CM0 8HF. Free soup and hot chocolate. Monday 5th December 11am-1pm.
  • BRADWELL – St Thomas' Church, East End Road CM0 7QW. Free soup and hot chocolate. Tuesday 21st February 11am-1pm.
  • HEYBRIDGE – Plantation Hall, Colchester Road, CM9 4AL. Hot drinks, soup, warm clothes and coats, toys and a chat to those in need. Weekdays 9am–3pm.
  • HEYBRIDGE – Fullbridge Church, 27 Fullbridge. Includes lunch. Every Tuesday30am-1pm.
  • MALDON – Quaker Meeting House, Butt Lane, CM9 5HD. Free hot and cold drinks, soup, rolls and cakes. Every Friday 10am-1pm.
  • MALDON Community in a Cup at URC Market Hill, CM9 4PZ. Free refreshment. Last Tuesday of every month 10am-12.
  • MALDON – Fullbridge Church, 27 Fullbridge, CM9 4LE. Free refreshments and a light lunch. Every Tuesday30am-1pm.
  • MAYLAND – Lawling Park Hall, Katonia Avenue CM3 6AD. Free soup and hot chocolate. Thursday 19th January 11am-1pm.
  • SOUTHMINSTER – ‘Warm and Toastie’ at St. Leonard’s Church, 1 Station Rd, CM0 7EW. Free hot drinks and toasted sandwiches. Every Sunday 12:30pm – 2:30pm until end of March 2023.

Could you, like David, join our team?

‘Have you thought about volunteering for Maldon Citizens Advice?’ my wife suggested. It was a brilliant suggestion and led me in an unexpected but highly rewarding direction. After comprehensive and thorough training, it was time to go live of the phone.

Talking to clients seems initially daunting, but you have the support and incredible knowledge base of the supervisors and specialists. Your role is to put the client at ease, obtain all the facts and ask  the right questions. Phone down, now comes the research and picking of the brains of those more experienced. Then with the shape of your advice formed, you can go back to the client.  Suddenly it is not daunting, but instead there is a great feeling of helping someone out in their moment of need. As your knowledge and experience grows instead of being daunted you have feelings of anticipation and interest.

Being an advisor is a privileged position where you gain the trust and confidence of clients who let you into their lives in order that you can seek to help them by providing guidance and advice. Going to work is energising as you never quite know what you are going to encounter when picking up the phone or when in a face to face meeting. The variety of cases even within one day can be extraordinary. Some cases can be straight forward but there those that are harrowing but even here offering comfort and advice can improve a client’s position and outlook. At the end of the day you can leave with a skip in your step, given a sense of having made a difference and contributed to making the world a better place, albeit in a very small way.

A further reason for enjoying going to the office is the diverse and interesting team of fellow advisors at Citizens Advice. There is time for a chat and the out of office activities are good fun.

So my wife’s suggestion has helped to provide me with a greater sense of purpose, the ability to help people in need, a sense of being valued, wider interaction with society and a colligate and fun work environment. I cannot thank her enough!


The Energy Bills Support Scheme and how you will get help

All households with a domestic electricity connection in Great Britain are eligible for the £400 discount.

How will I get the discount?

  • The £400 discount will be paid, by suppliers, to consumers over 6 months with payments starting from October 2022
  • Households will see a discount of £66 applied to their energy bills in October and November, rising to £67 each month from December through to March 2023
  • The discount will be provided on a monthly basis regardless of whether consumers pay monthly, quarterly or have an associated payment card
  • Households will never be asked for their bank details, and those with a domestic electricity connection will not need to apply
  • There is no need to contact your supplier as all domestic electricity customers will be automatically eligible. Electricity bill payers should enquire with their supplier if they have not received their first instalment by the end of October.
  • Direct debit customers will get the discount automatically as a reduction to the monthly direct debit, or as a refund to the customer’s bank account following direct debit collection during each month of delivery
  • Standard credit customers and payment card customers will see the discount automatically applied as a credit to standard credit customers’ accounts in the first week of each month of delivery, with the credit appearing as it would if the customer had made a payment
  • Smart prepayment meter customers will see the discount credited directly to their smart prepayment meters in the first week of each month of delivery
  • Traditional prepayment meter customers will be provided with redeemable vouchers or Special Action Messages (SAMs) from the first week of each month, issued via SMS text, email or post. These customers will need to take action to redeem these at their usual top-up point and should make sure that their provider has up to date contact details for them so as to receive the vouchers and instructions.

 

I pay for energy in my rent - how do I make sure my landlord passes on the reduction?

  • Landlords who have a domestic electricity contract with a licensed electricity supplier and then resell the electricity to their tenants based on energy usage must comply with the maximum resale price rules.
  • the maximum resale price for electricity is currently set as the same price as that paid by the person reselling it. Under these circumstances, we expect landlords to pass on the discount received to each tenant
  • landlords with a domestic electricity connection who charge ‘all inclusive’ rent, such as the case for many student houses, where a fixed cost for energy costs are included in their rental charges, should also be passing on the discounted payments to tenants

 

Will I get the discount if I live in a park home, houseboat or am an energy consumer living off the grid?

  • the government has confirmed that further funding will be available to provide equivalent support of £400 for energy bills for the 1% of households don’t have a domestic electricity connection. Details of this will be published in the autumn.

 

What happens if I switch energy suppliers or my household circumstances change?

  • Electricity suppliers will apply the discount to bills from October 2022. This will be done by meter points, so it won’t matter if you switch supplier
  • the Scheme will now provide 6 monthly payments based on 6 qualifying dates than a single date in October. This allows new eligible households to benefit from the relevant portion of the total £400 as there will be multiple qualifying dates

 

What if my energy supplier goes bust or I change my payment method?

  • Government will ensure that customers who switch payment methods, or whose energy suppliers fail, will not be penalised

 

How will it work for customers in arrears / in debt?

  • All households with a domestic electricity connection in Great Britain are eligible for the £400 discount

 

If you would like advice on this, or any other subject, please get in touch with Maldon & District Citizens Advice. See our new website https://maldoncitizensadvice.org.uk for details, or by ringing 01621 875774

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Lucy Bettley


Scam awareness and how we can keep safe

Scams and the Cost of Living

We’ve seen time and again that scammers seek to exploit vulnerability – from the coronavirus pandemic to recessions, times of difficulty often see a corresponding increase in related scams.

 The increased financial pressure many will be facing has put more people into difficult situations, with many facing issues with debt and being unable to afford essential goods and services. Scammers are likely to exploit these issues, so being empowered to protect yourself and others will have heightened importance.

There are lots of different types of scams emerging. Examples to look out for include:

  • Scammers pretending to be energy companies, luring people with “too good to be true” deals in order to steal their money
  • Fake sales representatives selling counterfeit shopping vouchers
  • Fraudsters sending out phishing emails pretending to offer an energy rebate or government support in order to steal people’s personal information

 

The stats on scams

  • Estimates form the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) suggest there were 5.1 million fraud offences in the year ending September 2021. This is a 36% increase compare to the year ending September 2019
  • Citizens Advice found in the first 5 months of 2021 more than two thirds of adults (36million) had been targeted by a scam
  • While over 55s were most likely to be targeted, those 34 and under were almost 5 times more likely to fall victim to a scam than their older counterparts
  • In the first half of 2021, criminals stole a total of £753.9 million through fraud, an increase of 30% compare to the year before
  • The CSEW suggests than only 1 in 6 of incidents of fraud either come to the attention of the police or are reported by the victim to Action Fraud

 

Spotting a scam

It’s important to always keep an eye out for scams. They can and do affect anyone. Here are some of the main warning signs to look out for:

  • It seems too good to be true – like an email saying you’ve won a competition you don’t remember entering
  • Someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly
  • You’re being urged to act quickly so you don’t have time to think about it or talk to family and friends
  • You’ve been asked to pay for something urgently or in an unusual way – for example by bank transfer or gift vouchers
  • You’ve been asked to give away personal information

 

Simple steps to help protect yourself

  • Don’t be rushed into making any quick decision. It’s okay to take your time
  • Never give money or personal details, like passwords or bank details, to anyone you don’t know, trust or have only met online. If someone pressures you for these, it’s likely to be a scam
  • Before you buy anything, check the company or website you’re using. Read reviews from different websites, search for the company’s details on Companies House and take a look at their terms and conditions
  • Pay by debit or credit card. This gives you extra protection if things go wrong
  • Be suspicious. Scammers can be very smart. They can appear like a trusted business or government official, have a professional website andsay all the right things. Take your time to work out if this is a real organization. Ask them for ID or contact the organization on a number you know and trust
  • Don’t click on or download anything you don’t trust
  • Make sure your antivirus software is up to date
  • Keep you online accounts secure:
    • Use a strong password for email accounts that you don’t use anywhere else
    • Some websites let you add a second step when you log into your account – this is known as “two-factor authentication” and can make it harder for scammers to access your accounts
  • If you’re not sure about something, get advice from a trusted source

 

What to do if you have been scammed

  1. Protect yourself from further risks

To stop things getting worse, contact your bank immediately to let them know what’s happened. Change any relevant log-in details and check for viruses if you were scammed on a computer.

  1. Check if you can get your money back

If you’ve paid for something by card, bank transfer, Direct Debit or PayPal, depending on the circumstances your bank may be able to help you get your money back.

  1. Report the scam

Reporting helps protect others from being scammed.

  • Call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 who can pass on details of the scam to Trading Standards and can give you advice
  • Report to Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud. They will give you a crime number

 

It’s also important for us all to talk to family and friends about our experiences. Don’t feel embarrassed. Together we can help to put a stop to scams.


There’s lots of information on the Citizens Advice website
www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scamsadvice