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February 2012 Posts

2/1/2012 2:41:06 PM

Ask an Expert: Housing Costs - Turn2us

Ask an Expert: Housing Costs sessionThis month's Ask an Expert session focused on Housing Costs. Questions were received on a wide range of issues, including rules relating to Housing Benefit, how to find help with housing costs, grants for furnishing accommodation and what to do if you can't afford your mortgage payments. Read our experts answers now.

Browse our Ask an Expert: Housing Costs session

2/2/2012 9:48:51 AM

Commons reverse Lords welfare defeat - Turn2us

Houses of ParliamentMPs have overturned an original rejection of the government’s welfare reform bill just days after the 246 to 230 defeat.

As part of the reforms the government wants a cap of £26,000 on the annual household benefits including child benefit and will use a rule known as “financial privilege” to ensure Parliament approves the cap.

The House of Lords made an amendment to the bill, excluding child benefit from counting towards the £26,000 but Work and Pensions Minister Chris Grayling said there were already exemptions to the cap - such as families in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Working Tax Credit - and outlined "transitional arrangements" to minimise the impact.

Visit our section on the Welfare Reform Bill

Source: BBC News website (link opens in new window)

2/3/2012 10:08:16 AM

Severe weather warning to highlight risk to ill and elderly - Turn2us

Winter treesA level 3 cold weather alert has been issued by the Met Office warning organisations, such as Age UK, of the health risks to old and ill people.

Temperatures have plummeted to -11C overnight and there are further warnings of snow and ice for the weekend.

The Met Office said: ''This weather could increase the health risks to vulnerable patients and disrupt the delivery of services.''

The only higher alert is level 4, which sees normally healthy people at risk from the cold.

Meanwhile, letters have been sent to 675,000 homes across England to raise awareness of home energy grants, such as Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments.

The level 3 alert will remain in place until at least Sunday.

Visit the Fuel Poverty Campaign page.

 

Sources:

BBC News website (link opens in new window)

Telegraph website (link opens in new window)

2/3/2012 4:33:18 PM

Elizabeth Finn Care survey reveals how people on low incomes struggle to keep warm in Winter - Turn2us

Wrap Up Against Poverty press releaseA new survey commissioned by Elizabeth Finn Care reveals the struggles that people on low incomes face particularly during the Winter months. The results are released as Elizabeth Finn Care’s Wrap Up Against Poverty campaign – an online auction of celebrity and designer winter clothing to raise money for people in financial need in the UK – gets underway.

The survey has found that, due to their financial situation, a third (33%) of people on low incomes have not been able to buy essential new clothing before, and almost a quarter (24%) are concerned they will not be able to afford clothing for themselves and their families this year. Of those parents surveyed, nearly two-fifths (37%) have had to go without new clothing for themselves so they could afford to provide it for their children.

The research also uncovers some of the emotional and physical effects on those who lack adequate clothing for the winter, with one in nine (11%) reporting they have been forced to stay at home on cold days before, one in seven (14%) experiencing illness or physical pain and nearly one in six (17%) admitting they have been worried or unhappy as a result.

Read the press release about this survey

Find out more about Wrap Up Against Poverty

2/8/2012 9:41:46 AM

Elderly care standards at risk due to lack of reforms - Turn2us

Care for the elderlyThere will be “serious consequences for standards” to the quality of life of up to 1.2 million elderly people in care according to a report by the Commons health committee.

"Opportunities to provide necessary help are not taken and the condition of individual patients deteriorates in many cases where this did not need to happen," the report states.

At present it is common for doctors and social services departments to duplicate each other’s work, carrying out multiple assessments on the same patients without pooling their efforts.

Stephen Dorrell, Conservative chairman of the committee, said: "It is impossible to deliver either high quality or efficient services when the patient is passed like a parcel from one part of the system to another, without any serious attempt to look at their needs in the round.

The Government has committed to providing an additional £20 billion a year for social care by 2015, but the MPs say this is "not sufficient to maintain adequate levels of service quality and efficiency".

Source: Telegraph website (link opens in new window).

2/8/2012 2:10:47 PM

Watch our new fuel poverty video - Turn2us

Loading the player ...

This tells the stories of four women who are experiencing fuel poverty, including:

  • Rita Brown, aged 56 from Baildon near Bradford, who spends around 20% of her income on fuel. Rita said: "I'm currently unemployed and can’t afford to stay indoors. I go to the library during the day just to try and keep warm. When I wake up I have cramps because it is so cold, but I can’t afford to have the heat on."
  • Jayne Burnett, aged 48 from London, who is registered blind. She said: "Because of my poor health I can’t get cold. But it’s a struggle. We live in tough economic times and everyone is making cutbacks, but none of the fuel companies appear to be doing so. They are making huge profits still, and that doesn’t seem right."

Watch our fuel poverty video (link opens in a new window)

Read our press release 

Help us populate our fuel poverty map

2/9/2012 9:58:07 AM

Charities speak out over worsening attitudes towards disabled people - Turn2us

disabilityInflammatory media coverage and “deeply irresponsible” language from ministers is fuelling an increase in abuse of disability claimants.

Scope, Mencap, Leonard Cheshire Disability, the National Autistic Society, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), and Disability Alliance say government claims of mass abuse of the benefits system is unfounded.

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said this is “playing directly into a media narrative about the need to weed out scroungers.”

Tom Madders, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society added that ministers such as the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, were being "deeply irresponsible" in merging Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which helps disabled people hold down jobs, and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a payment for those unable to work.

A DWP spokeswoman said the department was committed to supporting disabled people but needed to "do more to change negative attitudes", and had begun a cross-government consultation on tackling discrimination.

Source: Guardian website (link opens in new window).

2/10/2012 10:24:23 AM

Repossessions drop to lowest level since 2007 - Turn2us

HouseRepossessions are at a four-year low but nearly 100 households a day still had to be repossessed in 2011.

Figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders showed about 8,500 properties were repossessed in the final three months of 2011, down 9% on the previous quarter. This brought the total for the year to 36,200, fewer than the CML’s 40,000 forecast.

CML director general Paul Smee said: “We are concerned that there will be a higher number of people facing more serious problems in 2012.”

Mark Blackwell, managing director of mortgage data specialists xit2, warned borrowers could be in trouble when banks toughen up their policies for cutting borrowers some slack.

He said: “These policies are a life support machine for many borrowers whose finances are in a torrid state.

“But lenders will be forced to switch a number of these life support machines off as they try to protect their balance sheets, and we are sure to see repossessions soar.

Source: Daily Mirror website (link opens in new window).

2/10/2012 2:32:16 PM

Turn2us seeks Welfare Benefits Specialist (Maternity Cover from April 2012) - Turn2us

Information about Welfare Benefits Specialist (maternity cover from April 2012) postDo you have extensive knowledge/experience of giving advice and writing/creating online resources about welfare benefits?

Turn2us is currently recruiting a Welfare Benefits Specialist (maternity cover from April 2012).

Closing date has passed for this job vacancy (24 February 2012)

2/13/2012 9:41:06 AM

Which? launches Big Switch initiative - Turn2us

Information about the Big Switch campaignA new 'Big Switch' campaign - launched by the consumer organisation, Which? - aims to use the collective bargaining power of bill payers to get a better energy deal.

Which? has found that consumers often don't know how to find the best deal because there are so many energy tariffs to choose from. Through Big Switch, you can register your interest (by 31 March) in switching to a better deal. Which? will then get in touch to ask you a few questions about your current gas and electricity suppliers and tariffs. They will then negotiate the best deal with the energy suppliers. Once they have a new deal with an energy company, they will let you know exactly how much you can save by switching. If you choose to go ahead with the new deal, Which? will handle this for you

More than 75,000 people have already registered with Big Switch

Find out more about the Big Switch (link opens in a new window)

Support our Fuel Poverty campaign

Source: This is Money news article (link opens in a new window)

2/14/2012 9:42:18 AM

TUC say unemployment is really more than double current level - Turn2us

Trade Union Congress press release (link opens in a new window)The figure for UK unemployment is more than double its current 2.68 million level, according to new Trade Union Congress research. It increases to 6.3 million if other definitions are used to calculate the numbers.

The UK currently calculates unemployment using on a definition of an adult being unemployed if they are out of work and have actively sought a new post over the past month.  The TUC say that incorporating six measures of joblessness that are commonly used in the USA would paint the UK job market in a much bleaker light. This alternative way of measuring unemployment would include adults stuck in part-time jobs because they can't find full-time work and people who want to work but have not actively looked for it for six weeks.

Comment from TUC General Secretary

Commenting on the research, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'The headline unemployment figures are bad enough, but the true scale of joblessness is even worse. Over six million people are either out of work or under-employed. Tackling this crisis should be the government's number one priority.

'Our jobs crisis is not confined to those out of work. Nearly two million people are being forced to take low-paid, insecure, short hours jobs because of the lack of proper full-time employment. This means people are taking home much less pay, which is putting a real strain of family budgets.

'When ministers say there are plenty of jobs out there, they are ignoring the sheer numbers of people looking for work, as well as the suitability and location of the jobs available.

'Rather than seek to blame unemployed people for being out of work, the government should start helping them by putting proper resources into employment schemes.

'Unless we get people back into decent jobs and wages growing in line with prices again we will not secure a sustainable economic recovery nor get the deficit down'.

Read the TUC press release (link opens in a new window)

Source: Guardian news article (link opens in a new window)

2/15/2012 9:22:06 AM

Make a fresh start with Money Advice Service - Turn2us

Money Advice Service website (link opens in a new window)With spring in the air, you may feel that now is the time to make a fresh start with your money.

Money Advice Service, the independent organisation which provides information and advice on all aspects of managing money, has launched a Fresh Start campaign to help you spring clear your finances. 

Their website includes tips about:

  • Looking clearly at your spending and cutting out unnecessary costs
  • Tidying up your budget
  • Reorganising your borrowing
  • Freshening up your savings
  • Planning for the future
  • Keeping on top of things.

You can also use the Money Advice Service free Health Check (link opens in a new window) to get a personalised action plan suggesting your financial priorities for the year ahead and further ahead.

Find out more about the Fresh Start campaign (link opens in a new window)

2/16/2012 9:20:51 AM

Netmums survey reveals 70% of families are struggling financially - Turn2us

Netmums website (link opens in a new window)70% of families are living 'on the edge' of surviving financially, a survey by the online community Netmums has found.

This month, Netmums surveyed over 2,000 of their members to find out how the UK's current economic situation was hitting families incomes and what impact rising prices was having on them. It looked at:

  • increasing cost of household bills
  • how much more parents were having to find each week to get by
  • how families are covering the shortfall in their income
  • what they were doing to cut back on their spending
  • how lack of money and added stress affected health and relationships.

Key findings

The survey found:

  • One in five mothers are missing meals so their children can eat
  • A quarter of families are living on credit cards, five take pay day loans and one in 100 have turned to loan sharks to stay afloat
  • Almost half of families have sold or pawned goods to make money to live on
  • 16% of parents are being treated for a stress-related illness due to lack of cash
  • Two-thirds of families have less money coming in than this time last year, with 61% short of money every week
  • Two in five families need an extra £20 a week to get by, a third need £50 and one in ten families would need an extra £100 each week to make ends meet.

If you are struggling to make ends meet, use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search database to find out if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund.

Find out more about the Netmums survey (link opens in a new window)

2/17/2012 9:32:56 AM

Mental health groups criticise plans to make ESA work placements compulsory - Turn2us

Guardian website (link opens in a new window)Mental health professionals and charities have criticised plans by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to force some people with long-term sickness or disability to work unpaid for an unlimited amount of time or have their benefits cut.

In an article published in The Guardian on 16 February, they expressed their concerns that individuals deemed fit to undertake limited amounts of work under a controversial assessment process for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) could experience further harm to their health if the plans go ahead.

The new policy is expected to be announced after legal changes contained in clause 54 of the Welfare Reform Bill have been passed by Parliament. It might mean that people claiming ESA who are in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) would be made to take work experience placements for charities, public organisations and shops.

In November 2011, a group of leading UK mental health organisations, including the Royal College of Psychiatrists (link opens in a new window), submitted a Work_Experience_for_ESA_claimants_consultation_document (link opens in a new window PDF file size 178kb). One of their key concerns was about the "capacity of relevant members of staff in Jobcentre Plus and work programme providers to make appropriate decisions about what type of work-related activity is suitable for claimants with mental health problems". They also recommended that the placements should be optional.

Read the Guardian news article (link opens in a new window)

2/20/2012 9:10:50 AM

Participate in the Citizens Advice Accessing Cash research - Turn2us

Citizens Advice website (link opens in a new window)Citizens Advice, Citizens Advice Scotland and LINK, the UK cash machine network have launched a new research project on access to cash.

The research will look at how people access their cash (whether it’s through cash machines, banks or other ways), how much of a problem it would be if they could only use a cash machine provided by their own bank and if the cash machine they use most regularly charges a fee.

It will also explore whether different people face particular problems in getting their money.

The research will take place between February and March this year and the results will be available in the summer.

Read the Citizens Advice press release (link opens in a new window)

2/21/2012 9:59:30 AM

Turn2us job vacancy: Welfare Benefits Specialist (Maternity Cover from April 2012) - Turn2us

Information about Welfare Benefits Specialist (maternity cover from April 2012) postTurn2us is currently recruiting a Welfare Benefits Specialist (maternity cover from April 2012).

You’ll have extensive knowledge and experience of giving advice, writing and creating online resources in this area. You will be developing and managing a range of projects and resources, providing expert advice on welfare benefits and the welfare benefits system. You will be a self-motivated and passionate individual who is determined to make a difference to the lives of people in financial need.   

Closing date has passed for this vacancy (24 February 2012)

2/22/2012 9:06:35 AM

Think tank calls for Government supported 'use now, pay later' childcare scheme - Turn2us

News item about Social Market Foundation report (link opens in a new window)Parents should be able to access financial support of up to £10,000 from the Government to pay for childcare. They would then pay this back as monthly contributions made through the tax system.

This is according to a new report, A Better Beginning, published by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), an economic and social policy think tank. This proposes a 'National Childcare Contribution Scheme' which would use the Government's low cost of borrowing to help parents overcome the huge costs of childcare.  The scheme would extend the benefits of formal childcare to more children and families, without creating extra costs to public funds.

SMF Director Ian Mulheirn who co-authored the report, said “Childcare costs impose a huge burden on families for a relatively short period of time. This has a real impact on families’ household budgets and can mean that it’s simply not viable for some parents to go to work, despite the real benefits to both their earning power and their children’s development offered by formal childcare.

“By helping parents spread the cost through manageable monthly contributions, this innovative scheme can help parents do what’s best for themselves and their children.”

Read the Social Market Foundation press release (link opens in a new window)

2/22/2012 10:03:56 AM

Ask an Expert: Expecting a child - birth or adoption - Turn2us

Ask an Expert: Expecting a child - birth or adoptionThis month's Ask an Expert session focuses on 'Expecting a child - birth or adoption'. You can submit your questions on this topic until 28 February. Our expects include Gingerbread and Working Families.

Session now closed. See Ask an Expert introductory page

2/27/2012 9:38:21 AM

Read the February issue of Turn2us News - Turn2us

Turn2us News February 2012The latest issue of our e-bulletin for intermediaries, to find out more about our enhanced Information and Resources section, the results of our Maximising Income Project; and where you can find consolidated Tax Credits information .

Read the February Turn2us News

2/27/2012 10:38:34 AM

Maximising Income for families initiative reveals key role of voluntary sector - Turn2us

Maximising income for families project summary (PDF file size 396kb)Findings from a pilot project run by national charities Turn2us, Home-Start and Child Poverty Action Group reveals the key role that the voluntary sector can play in helping people understand future benefits changes and claim the financial support they are eligible for.

Set up in 2009, the two-year Maximising Income project was funded by the Department of Education. Home-Start staff and volunteers were trained to help families review their household budgets and access the welfare benefits and charitable grants available to them.

Using the Turn2us Benefits Calculator and Grants Search database, 21% of families who participated in the evaluation of the project increased their incomes, receiving:

  • Additional welfare benefits worth up to £210 per week
  • Charitable grants worth up to £1,400 per annum.

This extra money made a considerable difference to the families, who were struggling to cope with the high cost of living, steep childcare costs, rising unemployment and frozen salaries. The extra funds were used to buy food; cover transport costs for attending medical appointments; and purchase necessities, such as cookers, beds and pushchairs or items.

Vital role of charities, advice-giving organisations and intermediaries

This project demonstrates how charities, advice-giving organisations and intermediaries can play a key role in helping families to overcome barriers to accessing financial assistance.

Alison Taylor, Director of Turn2us said:“By teaming up with Home-Start and the Child Poverty Action Group, the Turn2us online tools have been able to make a vast improvement to families’ financial circumstances and quality of life. We urge other charities and advice-giving organisations to replicate the ‘trusted intermediary’ model piloted in this project, to train front-line workers and volunteers to be able to help families prepare for, and use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator and Grants Search to maximise their income.”

Find out more about the Maximising Income project

Read the Turn2us press release

2/29/2012 9:33:28 AM

Extra Government funding allocated to London's local councils - Turn2us

Department for Work and Pensions website (link opens in a new window)The Government has allocated an extra £5.9 million to local councils across London to help benefits claimants who are renting in the private sector. The funds aim to help residents and councils to renegotiate their rents with landlords and find more affordable properties.

Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, said:

“The cost of paying Housing Benefit in the private rented sector has nearly doubled in a decade, so it's only right that we introduce new reforms to get these spiralling costs under control. The additional £5.9m funding for London will help councils to prepare and assist residents make the transition.

“We are already seeing councils pulling together to create innovative projects to target support for tenants and work with landlords to renegotiate rents or find affordable properties.

“We look forward to councils continuing to work together and with local groups to make the very best use of these new resources.”

This is part of a £49 million amount that is to be given to local councils to help with the transition to new Housing Benefit (HB England, Scotland, Wales) (HB Northern Ireland) rules until 2015. It is in addition to the budgets for Discretionary Housing Payments (£130 million) and the £10 million provided for homelessness prevention in London.

Read the Department for Work and Pensions press release (link opens in a new window)

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