News from our Village Agent – March 2019

This month sees a focus on finances.

We are all aware that there is an increasing strain on our finances both individually and for the county and country as a whole.  Universal Credit has again been in the media recently. Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert.com Jan2019 discusses how universal credit cause debt through changing payments from advance to arrears forcing people to find a month’s rent and childcare ahead, reduced payments for disabled people and a 6 week wait before your first payment.  In Somerset, the Trussell Trust’s food bank gave 658,048 people emergency supplies between April and September 2018, a 13% increase on 2017.(Trussel Trust.org).  All this alongside the continued cuts to central government and Somerset County Council services leads more people into reduced circumstances.

If you are struggling with finances, it is important to seek help and not try to ignore it. Advise your utilities and rent providers to let them know your circumstances and to find out if they can support you with this.  It is vital that rent and council tax are paid but repayment plans for other debts may be available.   Do look at web information such as Money advice service www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk  and Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert www.moneysavingexpert.com  for ways to trim your budget with savvy buys and money saving schemes.  Also take a look at a benefits calculator such as www.turn2us.org.uk to see if you are eligible for more financial support.  The Citizen’s advice also hold drop in’s and are able to support with benefit claims and debt advice.  They are able to give food bank vouchers. There are many drop in centres across Somerset.  There are also some special tailored courses for those struggling with finances due to mental health conditions.

Check what discounts are available to you if you are on benefits such as the Warmer Homes Discount on electricity and gas bills, BT basic and reduced water bills.  You may still be able to save money on bills such as car and home insurance and utilities or by changing from an expensive TV and broadband package to free view and finding alternative exercise plans such as a jogging group or local facilities over a gym membership. Call 0800 336699 for the Government led Home Heat Helpline for access to social tariffs grants and free advice. Remember to check your contract in case there are exit fees.

If you have debt problems, do talk to Christian’s Against Poverty who have coverage over lots of Somerset.  They will support you in finding a repayment solution 0300 3280006.  You could also try local advice such as Wiser Money in South Somerset.

Cheap and safe loans are available through credit unions www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk. There are several across Somerset.

If you need support in regaining skills to get back into work, do ask us about the Positive People Program where you will work alongside a navigator who will help you overcome obstacles to finding work. There is also support for young adults at risk of losing their way on the employment /  training / education path www.cswfocus5.co.uk 07876758108.

Visit one of our talking cafés where one of our agents will be available to direct you to support suitable for your circumstances.  They run on Monday 2pm – 4pm in Chard at the library, Langport at the Angel 10 – 13.00 and at Yeovil Hospital on Wednesdays 10am – 12pm, in The Chapel (level 4). Remember it is always better to talk and get ideas and support from others, rather than keeping it to yourself.

Surviving Winter grants are available for older people living in Somerset, who are unable to adequately heat their homes.  If you are struggling to afford to heat your home this winter contact your Village Agent for more information.

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