Sally * was divorcing her husband of 34 years on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. She had lived in Local Authority accommodation with him for over 30 years believing that she held a joint tenancy. This belief was strengthened by her name being on the rent book and the fact that she paid the rent from a standing order since she had moved into the property. When she started divorce proceedings her husband issued a notice to quit the accommodation. She contacted the Local Authority and was informed that her name had never been put on the original tenancy agreement and she therefore had no right to rescind the notice to quit and would be evicted.
Sally asked the Bureau for help; we contacted both the LA and the local MP’s office. Initially, Sally was told that she would have to vacate the premises and because she was not classified as a priority, she would have to put her name on the housing register which would probably take several years for her to attain social housing. Sally’s low income meant that she would struggle to afford private rented accommodation.
After an appeal, the Local Authority reviewed the case and accepted Sally’s status as a joint tenant; Sally was able to remain in the property and is now at the top of the waiting list for a smaller 1 Bedroom property that she will be able to afford.
Paul * is 19 years of age and was a full time student when he took out a student loan for his fees and living costs. He found budgeting difficult and ran out of money before his next student loan instalment was due and so took out several payday loans throughout the year. Paul quickly found himself unable to manage to repay the loans in time and interest and charges escalated leaving him with no money to cover his living expenses. The lender continued to recover the money from his bank. Paul dropped out of his course.
Paul asked the Bureau for help, and in the first instance, we wrote to his lenders and asked them to suspend any action and freeze interest and charges whilst we worked with Paul.
We looked at Paul’s financial circumstances and drew up a financial statement to decide on the best course of action. We were able to stop the payday loan companies taking money from his bank account and to acknowledge that he was unable to pay. Paul had no income and a relatively low level of debt so we recommended a debt relief order (DRO). A DRO is an order that you may be able to apply for if you can’t afford to pay off your debts if they are less than £15,000. A DRO is granted by the Insolvency Service and is a cheaper option than going bankrupt.
Some types of debt don’t count towards this limit, in Paul’s case this would not write off his student loan.
Paul has been approved for a Debt Relief Order (DRO) which means that his debts will be written off but not his student loan. Paul was also given budgeting advice to enable him to manage his finances in the future.
Alison * was a part-time receptionist and when a close relative died and she requested bereavement leave. When she returned to work she found her employer’s behaviour unsympathetic and she decided she no longer wanted to work for her employer and handed in her resignation. When she received her final pay slip she found that the overtime she had worked had not been paid. When she challenged her employer he said that he had made the deduction because she had exceeded her annual leave entitlement for the year. Alison tried to speak to her employer to explain that he had made a mistake in his calculation but he would not listen.
Alison approached the Bureau for help. We were able to confirm that Alison had not received all the pay she was entitled to. Alison was reluctant to go to an Employment Tribunal because of the time it would take and the fees she would have to pay. We therefore agreed to write to her employer and request that the unlawful deduction of her wages were repaid.
After some protracted correspondence Alison’s employer agreed to pay the amount in full and she was able to avoid an Employment Tribunal.
Sarah * is now a single parent and had suffered years of abuse from her husband culminating in a vicious attack which resulted in imprisonment. Sarah suffered from anxiety and depression and was put into the work related activity group for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Sarah found it impossible to attend the work related activities required because of her anxiety and depression and was sanctioned, resulting in her ESA, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support being stopped. Sarah soon had rent arrears and faced legal action. At the time Sarah came to the Bureau she had no money and no food to feed her children.
When Sarah came to the Bureau we gave her a food voucher to deal with her immediate financial crisis. The Bureau recognised that at that time Sarah was unable to fulfil the work related activities for ESA and applied for her to be placed in the Support Group which meant she would not have to attend work related interviews. We contacted the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and requested that the sanctions on ESA were lifted and the Local Authority to request the reinstatement of her Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.
As a result of the Bureau’s intervention Sarah was able to deal with the immediate crisis and feed her children. The sanction on ESA was lifted, her Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support reinstated. Sarah has also been receiving debt advice from the Bureau and she has agreed a repayment plan for the rent arrears.