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How we help people successfully deal with life's problems

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We aren’t driven by a one size fits all approach.

We know people need different types of support at various times in their life.

One of our greatest strengths as a service is the flexibility to deal with most issues that people come to us with and we tailor our advice to each person’s needs.

We aim to solve problems, reduce their impact on individuals’ lives, and improve people’s circumstances. 

We help around 350 people each week, below are just some of their stories... 

Oli’s story*

Oli was referred to us by his Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) because he was facing eviction as he owed several thousand pounds in unpaid rent. 

Prior to the rent payments being stopped, Universal Credit (UC) had been paying the rent directly to Oli’s landlord. However, UC had not paid his rent for nearly a year.

When Oli was referred to us he was hospitalised under section 136 of the Mental Health Act, and had no access to internet, and so no access to his UC online journal. This made it difficult to ascertain what benefits he was receiving and why some had stopped.

Matters became even more urgent when he was informed by his landlord that he was being evicted in two weeks.

With Oli’s consent we contacted UC and explained his situation and lack of access to his UC journal. We then submitted a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR), just inside the 13-month time limit, and a request for back payment of rent since it stopped. The submission was on the basis that they had not treated him as a person with complex needs.

Shortly after we made the submission, Oli was released from hospital into supported accommodation with Rethink. He was allocated a really helpful support worker who we worked with for the rest of this case. Although the initial MR was rejected, we advised Oli to appeal the decision. After discussions with our caseworker and his Rethink support  worker, we supported him to appeal.

The appeal was submitted, and the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) decision maker agreed that they had not treated Oli as a person with complex needs and paid him £1,200.  However, this was not the full amount we believed he was due (including rent). On our advice, the appeal was resubmitted. Shortly afterwards Oli received a further £7,900 and was able to pay his landlord all her back rent.

This case shows how much perseverance is needed to resolve complex issues. It also illustrates the importance of teamwork between ourselves and other agencies.

*Client's name has been changed.

Joy and Emmanuel’s story*

A referral was received from Carer Support Wiltshire to support Joy, who cares for her husband Emmanuel, to apply for high-rate Attendance Allowance for him, as he now has night-time care needs.

Emmanuel was in receipt of low-rate Attendance Allowance, but he can no longer get out of bed at all, and Joy sleeps on a settee next to his bed downstairs.

Joy has limited literacy and struggles to read and write. She was not able to complete the Attendance Allowance supersession form and neither was Emmanuel. 

After several phone calls to the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), it was eventually agreed that the DWP would send the Attendance Allowance supersession form direct to us and that they would accept the form completed and signed by us, due to the carer’s situation and COVID-19 issues.

We arranged a phone appointment with Joy to complete the form for them. It was returned and the submission was backdated to the initial phone call made to the DWP.

*Clients' names have been changed.

June’s story*

June had been diagnosed with cancer and, as a single parent with three teenagers, she was very concerned about the impact on her family’s life, and, in particular, how she was going to manage the costs of the 50 mile round trip to the hospital for weeks of daily radiotherapy appointments.

As June receives Universal Credit she is entitled to reimbursement for her travel costs under the NHS Travel Costs Scheme. We reassured her and talked her through how she could do this. We also checked her benefit entitlements and identified she wasn’t receiving the additional premium she was due for being unable to look for, or engage in, any work-related activity due to her ongoing cancer treatment. This meant an additional £340 per month and, as importantly, meant that she no longer had to worry about missing appointments with Jobcentre Plus.

Cancer patients often find that their utility bills increase as they are at home more and need to use more water, gas / electric. Working with clinical staff, to provide medical evidence to support her application, we were able to access a Macmillan grant of £350 to help June with her gas and electricity bills.

Having been unemployed for some time, due to ill health, June had also built up over £900 of arrears on her water bills. We worked with her to produce an Income and Expenditure statement, which was added to an application for assistance from her water provider Wessex Water. They reduced the household bill to just £5 a month and, if she can keep up these payments, they will waive recovery of the outstanding balance.

Being able to help people with their financial issues, at a time when they are facing the uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis, and a schedule of treatment, is extremely rewarding and provides relief from another potential cause of stress.

*Client's name has been changed.

Helen's story*

Helen was referred to us by GreenSquareAccord, her housing association, as she was concerned about mounting water and Council Tax debt.

Helen had been working until recently, but had to stop due to her deteriorating physical ability. She was in receipt of Universal Credit but without an entitlement to the limited capability for work related activity element as she was considered fit for work, just not the type of work she did previously.

We helped Helen apply for a Wessex Water scheme that reduced her bill to £5 per month and will lead to the write off the outstanding balance of £155.

We also negotiated payment of £23 per month to Wiltshire Council in respect of Council Tax, this being the most she could afford. Helen has continued to make these payments, and the Council Tax Team, which have been monitoring the account has agreed that    as payments continue to be made the    arrears balance of £700 - accrued over the last three years - can be written off. 

Having supported Helen with these debts we then revisited her health conditions and their impact on her daily life. This led to assisting with an application for Personal Independence Payment and an award totalling £3,120 per annum.

*Client's name has been changed.

Marisa and Tommy’s story*

Marisa*, her husband Tommy* and their two children live in private rented accommodation. Tommy is a veteran but has recently been running a local small business. Lynn works full time in healthcare.

In 2020 Tommy suffered a serious medical event. He was temporarily unable to work and so Marisa had to try and run his business whilst also working full time herself to ensure the rent and bills were paid. When they started to struggle they turned to SSAFA for some help and they in turn referred them to us. 

Marisa and Tommy had already made a joint claim for Universal Credit (UC). However, a benefit check highlighted that it had been calculated incorrectly. We assisted them with resolving the issue with the DWP.

Their Universal Credit award didn't pay their housing costs in full so our adviser applied for a Discretionary Housing Payment from the council to help cover the cost. This was awarded and backdated to the date that they made their UC claim, which amounted to almost £2,000.

We also negotiated a Discretionary Reduction of their council tax bill which reduced the debt by nearly £900. We then worked with SSAFA to try and obtain other grants to clear their debts.

A military grant of more than £600 was provided which helped clear their council tax arrears, and one for almost £400 paid off their outstanding water bill debt.

We also applied for a Wessex Water TAP scheme to ensure that the future payments were affordable for them and they were accepted onto a scheme at £10 per month.

Marisa and Tommy are now debt free; he is now back at work part time and his health is improving. 

“I would like to extend my most heartfelt gratitude for your assistance with all our matters, right from the moment when SSAFA introduced us to you.

I honestly would have lost the plot had you not both held my hands in every way that you did. I am eternally grateful to you personally, to WCA and to SSAFA… 

Your help has been unparalleled.  

Thank you once again…”  Marisa

 *Clients' names have been changed.

Mike's story*

Prior to the pandemic Mike was a self-employed gardener, working around 16 hours a week. He has some health issues, so to top up his income he was also in receipt of Working Tax Credits with a disability element, and housing benefit. 

When his gardening work stopped because of the lockdown, Mike made a claim for Universal Credit (UC). But the change from tax credits to UC, including the 5-week waiting period for his first payment, left him in a difficult financial situation and was causing him a great deal of stress. He started selling his personal possessions and called us for a food parcel.  

As well as helping Mike get a food parcel, advisors also helped him to navigate his UC claim. This included advice about how to get an advance payment on his first Universal Credit payment; and how to tell his work coach about his medical condition.

We also discussed with Mike other options to help improve his financial situation; and how he could apply for other support that may be available to him, including getting a council tax reduction, and a grant through the Self-Employed Income Support scheme.

After speaking with us Mike said he was reassured by the information he received.

Trish’s story*

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Trish worked part time as a self-employed nail technician and was in receipt of Working Tax Credits. She also cares for her four children, two of whom are disabled.  When the crisis hit she lost her self-employed income and applied for Universal Credit. However, in part because of the benefit cap, Trish was around £500 a month worse off. She also had debts which she had been paying off, but was now concerned she would fall behind on repayments.

Trish came to Wiltshire Citizens Advice because she was stressed and worried about how she can get back on track. We helped her work through her options, and she applied for Disability Living Allowance for her disabled children, which she was later awarded. This in turn lifted the benefit cap, increasing her income by almost £300 a week and, meant she could apply for Carers Allowance. Trish now has around £100 left each month to rebuild her finances.                  

 *Client name has been changed.

Pat’s story*

Pat* lives with his wife Sue*,  who has dementia. Sue had always dealt with the bills and their finances, with no arrears or debt issues.

Pat was not aware of how much Sue’s condition had deteriorated and that, consequently, bills were not being paid.

When they received a letter from Wiltshire Council’s Council Tax department saying that they had arrears of more than £1,700, Pat was horrified, and upset, as their bills had always been kept up to date.

Pat, being a full time carer for his wife, approached our Carers Project for help and advice.

We contacted the Council Tax department on Pat’s behalf to explain their situation. 

Then working with Pat, we produced a detailed timeline of Sue’s dementia and how the arrears had occurred.

Our request to write off of the full debt was accepted, due to Sue’s health; and Pat has now taken over their payment of their Council Tax.

*Client name has been changed.

Michael’s story*

Michael* is a 55 year old single male living alone in a 2 bed mortgaged property. He lives with recurring psychotic depression and has not worked for the last two years. Prior to this Michael was in a responsible and well paid job. He has been claiming Universal Credit (UC) but had not had a capability for work assessment.

Michael was referred to us by his Community Psychiatric Nurse as his Universal Credit had been stopped and he had accrued some debts. Michael was sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) several months earlier and had been living on emergency payments since then.

We successfully applied for a Wessex Water scheme that resulted in the writing off of £1,300 of arrears. Michael also owed £2,000 to his energy supplier. They had sent the debt to debt collectors which was causing him considerable distress. We contacted the utility company which resulted in him being accepted on their vulnerable client scheme and the entire debt being written off.

Reviewing Michael’s UC Journal, payments had initially been correct. The sanctioning was due to a decision that he had not complied with his commitment and had failed to attend a couple of interviews. It was however, also clear he had been providing intermittent fit notes but had been given no capability for work assessment.

We submitted a Mandatory Reconsideration for his UC sanction that was successful, resulting in his payments being reinstated as well as a backdated payment. We also contacted the UC helpline who requested a UC50 form be sent to him. Michael was subsequently put in the Limited Capability for Work and Work-Related Activity group.

Michael is now managing to pay all his ongoing bills and, as a consequence, his mental health has improved significantly. He is now hopeful that in the next couple of years he will be able to get back into work.

*Client name has been changed.

Lisa's story*

Lisa* sought our help to deal with debts she was worried she would never be able to repay.

Lisa is disabled and lives with her adult son, who is also disabled, in a housing association home. She is in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Lisa has physical and mental health issues.

Lisa had an overdraft facility of £2,500 with her bank. She was within her overdraft limit but concerned because the balance kept increasing due to daily overdraft fees that she had to pay. These had escalated the debt and Lisa was worried that she would never pay off the debt.

Lisa spoke to her bank and they agreed to stop adding charges - the debt was then around £1,750. The bank also sent her a medical form and offered to reduce her debt by £100. Lisa thought she should get advice first, so she rejected this offer and contacted us for debt advice.  debt advice speech bubble

Our adviser wrote to the bank on Lisa’s behalf, pointing out that they had allowed the debt to escalate when her only income was benefits; and medical evidence was sent along with a request to write off the debt.  

The bank agreed to credit Lisa’s account with £1,500 to cover the overdraft fees, plus £25 for some additional fees and £20 for the medical evidence from the doctor.

The bank also agreed to cancel her overdraft facility and put a restriction on the account that will stop her applying for similar facilities in the next 6 months. At the end of our interaction her account was in credit just over £290.

Lisa was delighted with the outcome and can now move forward without worrying about being in debt.

*client name has been changed.

Helen’s story*

Helen* had applied for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) herself but had been turned down.

Helen then turned to our Carers Project for help with her PIP mandatory consideration.

We helped Helen with her case and the project caseworker also attended her appeal hearing as an observer.

The appeal was successful and Helen was awarded PIP at the standard rate for both daily living and mobility. 

She will now received almost £320 every 4 weeks.

The claim was also backdated, which meant Helen also received a backdated payment of £7,400.

*client name has been changed.

 

Liam’s story*

Liam* had been due to start full time employment but this had been delayed because of mental health issues. 

The delay meant Liam was struggling to manage on an extremely restricted income and had started falling behind with priority and non-priority payments. 

We helped to negotiate affordable payments to all creditors and Liam  was back on track to his clear debts within a few weeks. 

Being back in control of his financial situation has allowed Liam to focus on completing his mental health counselling sessions. He is then intending to take up the pre-existing offer of employment.

*client name has been changed.

 

Sam’s* story

Sam is a single parent who works 16 hours per week. 

She came to us for help with rent arrears, Council Tax arrears and Wessex Water arrears. 

She wasn't opening her post and was referred by her housing association tenancy sustainment team.

We conducted a debt appointment, completed a financial statement, worked out what Sam could afford to pay towards her debts, telephoned the Council and arranged a repayment plan for Council Tax arrears, completed a Wessex Water form and agreed what she would offer the housing association towards her arrears. 

We rang the housing association to ensure the offer would be acceptable, but were told they had already applied to court for the eviction warrant.  
When the warrant for eviction arrived we talked through the process with Sam - enabling her to download the form, vary it, and complete it using the financial statement and budget sheet prepared earlier.

The eviction was suspended on the terms offered, and she is now paying her Council Tax, as agreed and has been accepted onto a Wessex Water scheme.  

The best thing however, is Sam says she can see light at the end of the tunnel now – so she opens all her post when it arrives and deals with it immediately.

*client name has been changed

 

Ian’s* story

Ian was referred to us as a Jobseeker on Universal Credit (UC). His mental health had deteriorated and he had seriously contemplated suicide, and was awaiting a diagnosis of Asperger's.

He was expected to travel a significant distance, using public transport, each fortnight to visit the Job Centre.

Ian’s total Universal Credit payments were just under £767 per calendar month (pcm), including housing element. He was having deductions of £35pcm for an advance payment of UC, leaving him with a net income of £732. His rent of £695pcm took the vast majority of this, and he was tied into this private tenancy agreement for several more months. Rent arrears would have detrimentally impacted on the likelihood of being housed via Homes4wiltshire. He had therefore been maintaining rent payments and so had only £37pcm to live on.

We assisted him to request that his claimant commitment be amended and supported him at the appointment with the Job Centre.

We also assisted him to complete UC50 and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claim forms. PIP was granted.

In addition, UC confirmed he has Limited Capability for Work (LCW) and Limited Capability for Work Related Activity (LCWRA) so now does not have to meet any of the work search requirements and is receiving a further £315.60pcm added to his Universal Credit. 

*client name has been changed

 

Jess’s* story

Jess is a young mother, with two children under five and a partner.

She has been struggling with mounting non priority debt for several years and this was affecting her relationship and health.

The Caseworker on our GP Surgeries project helped Jess to apply for a Debt Relief Order. This has now been approved and her debts of just over £3,000 will be written off.

This will enable Jess and her family to have a fresh start.

*client name has been changed

 

Alan’s* story

Alan was first referred to the Macmillan benefits service in 2015, having been diagnosed with prostate and bone cancer. We helped with applications for Personal Independence Payments and a Blue Badge.

Alan and his wife, Sue were both employed by a local family as gardener and housekeeper and as part of this tied accommodation was provided along with a small income.

Due to the deterioration in Alan’s condition during 2016 it was clear that he would be unable to fulfil his duties as a gardener. The couple needed to find alternative accommodation and make the transition from earned ncome to benefit related support to enable Sue to provide full time care for her husband.

The local housing department located a suitable property and an application for Employment & Support Allowance was submitted for Alan, and along with Carer’s Allowance for Sue, applications were also made for Housing Benefit and Council tax Reduction. We also identified that Alan was in receipt of a small pension from a large transport organisation. Having discovered that a benevolent fund was in place a case was put forward for financial help and a grant for over £1000 was awarded.

Unfortunately shortly after occupying the property Alan passed away, so help with Bereavement benefits was given along with an application for a Funeral Grant. The benevolent fund also gave Sue the use of a holiday property during 2017 at no cost.

Although some of the benefits were not paid for a full twelve months the annualised figure for all benefits located and accessed totals over £33,000, not including the cost of the holiday property.

*client name has been changed

 

Magda’s* story

We undertook a home visit to Magda to support her completion of a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) form.

Previously, Magda was on Disability Living Allowance (DLA), had a Motability car and an award of middle rate care. 

Living in a relatively remote part of the county, with little in terms of public transport, retaining the car was essential to avoid being isolated.
The PIP assessment was carried out at Magda’s home and she was awarded enhanced mobility, so was able to keep the car, and standard daily living, so kept the same rate of benefit at £55 per week.

Magda was absolutely delighted, and more than a little relieved, saying she doesn’t think she would have been successful without our help.

In particular, she felt she would have been much more on edge had we not been able to explain what happens at the assessment and how the assessors need to be professional in their approach.

*client name has been changed

 

Steve’s* story

Steve came to us in great distress, as his Employment Support Allowance (ESA) had stopped and he had been deemed capable of working.

He has severe osteoporosis as well as curvature of the spine. We talked through the fact that he would need to report a change in his circumstances to begin a new claim.

We asked him if he had included his mental health issue on the form (he suffers from psychosis). He said that he had been too ashamed to admit that he has hallucinations and hears voices. Also, he wasn’t aware that these would also be considered for his ESA claim.

We were able to constructively explore the relevant factors around Steve’s mental health issues.

With the support of the project his ESA is now back in place.

*client name has been changed

 

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