Let’s talk about debt: My date with BBC Radio Nottingham
I’ve just returned from my BBC Radio Interview with the lovely Verity Cowley on her Sunday morning show. It’s the third time I’ve been on BBC Radio Nottingham, but I still get so nervous. My first radio experience was on Black Friday, when I was invited in to discuss the whole Black Friday phenomenon and offer tips about getting a Black Friday bargain.
Then, in December, I popped in on a Sunday morning to discuss ways to save money in the run up to Christmas. That’s when they discovered I was a volunteer debt advisor, at Cornerstone Money Advice, Nottingham, and booked me in to discuss debt and how to deal with it. So just like buses, I’d never been on the radio at all before last year and then suddenly, three opportunities came along at once!
Thankfully, I didn’t make a complete fool out of myself. I made sure I was prepared and gathered all the relevant debt-related information I needed. Then, I made my way along to the BBC studios, armed with my notes.
Everything went well (I think), but there’s always so much to say and it’s hard to say everything you want to in such a short slot. Unfortunately, I missed the chance to properly ‘signpost’ people who are worried about debt. However, Verity mentioned my blog, so I thought I’d better hastily write this post so anyone looking for debt advice (or tips on managing their money) can find the information they need and get help.
Let’s talk about debt.
Debt is a huge problem and the figures are staggering. Personal debt has grown by over 10% in a year and it’s now at its highest level since the 2008 crash. According to the Office of National Statistics’ figures for December 2016:
- Average debt per household in the UK (including mortgage) is £55,855
- Average unsecured debt per household in the UK is almost £13,000. (double the figure for 2000).
- Average credit card debt per household is £2,452.
- Number of properties repossessed in the UK every day is 25.
- Number of people declared bankrupt or insolvent in the UK every day is 264.
- Citizens Advice Bureaux deal with over 4,000 debt-related issues every day.
Before I share these useful links, however, I just want to say a few words to those who may be worried about money or struggling with debt:
Don’t panic! There are lots of places you can get help and advice.
Pay priority debts first. Consumer debt such as credit cards, loans and catalogues are not a priority because you won’t lose your home or your liberty if you fail to pay. Pay your priority debts first (mortgage, gas/electricity, council tax), buy essentials like groceries and costs to travel to work, then tackle your non-priority bills.
Don’t ignore the problem. If you’re afraid to open letters, bills or statements, try to pluck up the courage to do it. It’s the first step towards sorting out the problem.
Don’t borrow more. This will only make matters worse. If you don’t know how to sort out your financial situation yourself or are anxious about approaching creditors about difficulties paying bills, get help.
Contact a debt adviser. If you are struggling with debt and need help then get in touch with one of your local debt advice centres or Citizens Advice Bureau who will be able to offer you free, confidential advice to help you escape from debt.
If you’ve got money worries and debts, or if you simply want your money to go further, check out the following links:
Struggling with debt?
1. Help with your gas and electricity.
(i) Discounts and government help with energy bills.
(You’ll need to check your eligibility)
a) Warm Home Discount scheme. One off annual discount off your electricity bill, currently £140 for 2016/17.
b) Cold weather payment.
You may get a Cold Weather Payment if you’re getting certain benefits.
You’ll get a payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below for 7 consecutive days between 1st November and 31st March. £25 for every 7 consecutive days of zero or below.
c) Winter fuel payment.
You could get between £100 and £300 tax-free to help pay your heating bills if you were born on or before 5 May 1953. This is known as a ‘Winter Fuel Payment’.
Energy Trusts provide grants to clear domestic gas and electricity debts. In exceptional circumstances the Trusts give grants to clear other priority debts or purchase essential household items, known as Further Assistance Payments (FAPs). The range of assistance available can vary from time to time.
a) British Gas Energy Trust – The Trust awards grants to clear domestic gas and electricity debts owed to British Gas and other suppliers, purchase essential energy efficient white goods and cookers (Further Assistance Payment), for Bankruptcy and Debt Relief Order fees, for boiler repairs/replacements and to contribute towards funeral arrears.
b) E-on energy fund.
c) Npower energy fund.
d) EDF energy trust.
2. Help with water bills.
a) Severn Trent Big Difference Scheme.
If you are short of cash at the end of each month and you are a Severn Trent customer, you may be eligible for a 10-90% reduction in your water bills via The BIG Difference Scheme.
b) The Watersure scheme.
The WaterSure scheme is available for certain customers with a water meter. It allows them to have their bills capped
3. Childcare vouchers.
If you pay income tax and NI, your employer may be able to help you with your childcare costs using childcare vouchers. You don’t have to pay tax and National Insurance on childcare vouchers, childcare your employer arranges with a provider (sometimes known as ‘directly contracted childcare’) and workplace nurseries. You can get up to £55 a week from childcare vouchers, depending on how much you earn and when you joined the scheme. It may affect your tax credits so check before applying.
4. Marriage tax allowance.
If you are married or in a civil partnership and one of you is a non-taxpayer and one of you is a basic-rate taxpayer, you may be entitled to a £432 tax break called the marriage tax allowance.
5. Eligibility for grants and benefits.
Find out what benefits and grants you are entitled to by completing the online form on the Turn2us website:
6. Other useful links.
a) Money Advice Service, Free impartial advice set up by the government.
b) StepChange Debt Charity.
c) National Debt Line.
d) Pay Plan – Free debt advice.
e) Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Expert Website. Lots of information on budgeting, saving money, personal finance etc.
There’s even a budgeting tool to help you keep track of your finances:
f) AdviceUK is the UK’s largest support network for free, independent advice centres.
g) The Debt Advice Foundation.
This is a registered national debt advice and education charity offering free, confidential support and advice to anyone worried about loans, credit and debt.
In Nottinghamshire and struggling with debt?
For those of you who live in Nottinghamshire who need help with debt or managing their budget, here are some useful links:
1. List of Nottinghamshire Citizens Advice Bureaus (Address, Telephone number, opening hours).
2.Credit Unions in Nottinghamshire.
3. Food banks.
a) Hope Foodbank locations in Nottingham.
b) List of other Nottingham food bank locations and other services (including debt) is available from the Nottinghamshire Advice Network (NAN) website:
c) Food banks in the UK:
4. Nottingham City centre free meals locations.
5. Nottingham Community Cafes.
6.Nottingham City Hardship Support Scheme.
7. Other useful links for Nottinghamshire residents.
a) The Nottingham Community and Voluntary Service.
This website has lots of useful information including information on Food banks across Nottingham. Tel: (0115) 9348400.
Over to you.
Please don’t struggle with debt and money problems on your own. Don’t panic. Don’t feel ashamed. Free, confidential money advice centres like Cornerstone Money Advice can help you get your money worries under control, instead of them controlling you.