I claim Disability Living Allowance(DLA). My award is due to go on for some time but I've been asked apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Why is this happening and do I have to apply?
DLA is gradually being phased out for 16 to 65-year-olds and is being replaced by a new benefit called PIP. Claimants who are already receiving DLA will gradually 'invited' to claim PIP.
If they don't then their benefit will stop. You should not worry and should complete the forms and send them back with any relevant medical history to ensure no breaks in benefit.
Citizens Advice can assist with completion of the forms and are on hand to offer further advice on what this means for you. Alternatively you can visit us at www.citizensadvice.org.uk and look at our numerous advice guides on PIP and claiming process.
I've been ill recently and have had to spend a lot of money on prescriptions. How might I qualify for free prescriptions?
In England, you are entitled to get prescriptions free of charge if you:
•Are on Income support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit.
•Are 60 or over (you must show proof of age to pharmacist).
•Have a listed medical condition and have valid medical exemption certificate. Ask your GP if you think this might apply to you.
•Are having treatment for cancer and you have a valid medical exemption certificate.
•Are still in full-time education. You must show proof to pharmacist.
I was three months late in putting in a claim for housing benefit after losing my job. I didn't know I could claim. Can I backdate the claim?
Unfortunately new regulations that came out in April mean that housing benefit can only be backdated for one month. Previously you could request a backdated claim for up to six months if you were able to show good cause. If your circumstances change it is always advisable to seek advice straight away about any help that may be available either through www.turn2us.org.uk or your local Citizens Advice.
I've started claiming Universal Credit after losing my job. My parents have offered to take me on holiday for a week in France. Will this affect my claim?
Under Universal Credit it will be very difficult to take any holidays and still satisfy the conditions of entitlement. If you are claiming Jobseekers Allowance the a maximum period of two weeks holiday is allowed provided it is in the UK but no holidays abroad are permitted. For more help and advice about this and other issues relating to Universal Credit please pop into one of your local Citizens Advice branches.
My son is 17 and has left school and become an apprentice. I claim child benefit and child tax credit for him. Will it stop?
That depends. Child benefit and child tax credit will continue if you are responsible for a child or young person who is enrolled on an approved training course or recognised approved apprenticeship scheme. For more please go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk and look under 'Benefits for families and children' / child benefit / child tax credit or pop into your local Citizens Advice for help.
Can I claim a refund if my train is delayed?
Delay Repay is a national scheme train companies use to compensate passengers for delays. You can claim compensation if you're delayed by 30 minutes or more. (except when delays are caused by planned engineering work). Southeastern Delay Repay page
I took my car in to a garage for some simple repairs but they haven't been sorted and they have found some other faults that I'm sure weren't there, and it's taking a long time. It's now getting very expensive. What can I do?
If you've had a problem with a car repair or service, the best thing to do is negotiate with the garage to work out the best solution. Speak with the garage in person or over the phone - you may be able to resolve the problem quickly.
If they don't agree up front to make things right, you may want to write or email the garage so you have a record of the problem and your communication to them. You should ask the garage to fix any faults that weren't repaired properly, weren't correctly found or didn't exist before. If the work wasn't done with 'reasonable skill and care', you have the legal right to get the work done again or get a price reduction. Tell this to the garage.
It can be difficult agreeing on what is 'reasonable', so it's a good idea to get a second opinion from another garage. You can also ask the garage for a refund of some of the payment you made - you have the legal right to a price reduction if the work wasn't done with 'reasonable care and skill'. A second opinion can help you and the garage agree on what is reasonable.
I'm trying to cancel a contract with a mobile broadband provider but they tell me I can't and keep billing me. What can I do?
Sometimes companies make it hard for you to end a contract whether it be for a mobile phone, broadband or television service you receive. If you're unhappy with your service provider and want to leave, you should always check your contract with them first to see how long you signed up for and if there will be any cancellation charges for leaving early. If the company continues to bill you then you should complain in writing and follow their complaints procedures.
Help can be found on our public site at www.citizensadvice.org.uk in the consumer section under Help with cancelling a contract or through the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
I have just left home and moved into a rented flat after paying off my debts. How can I avoid getting back into debt and spend less? I work 30 hours a week on the living wage.
You can use our online budgeting tool to help you budget. You may be able to claim housing benefit to working tax credit. Speak to the council. If you're paying council tax, you should check whether you are entitled to any discounts.
There are lots of ways to save water. See www.ccwater.org.uk You'll probably be able to save money on your gas and electricity bills by switching supplier. If you're not sure whether you're responsible for paying energy bills, check your tenancy agreement.
Make sure you're paying the right amount of tax and national insurance. You may be able to use the quick tax checker at www.gov.uk. That site will also give you information on claiming back overpaid income tax. For help checking your tax code, www.litrg.org.uk. Check whether you can travel more cheaply by buying a season tickets in advance; compare the cost of petrol at petrol stations to make sure you're buying the cheapest.
I have an appointment at Citizens Advice to discuss my debts and benefits. What should I bring with me?
Although you are coming in to discuss two issues, they may overlap so when you visit, it's important that the adviser you speak to has as much information about your case as possible. If you don't bring the necessary paperwork with you, you may have to come back another time. This means it could take longer to get the help you need.
If you haven't got everything listed, don't worry - bring as much as you can find. It's sometimes important to get help as soon as possible because you may only have a short amount of time to take certain action.
All letters from government departments, such as
• The Department for Work and Pensions decision letters that you are not happy with or wish to challenge
• your national insurance number
• proof your income - wage slips, benefit letters, tax credits
• bank statement - latest copy
• details of any savings
• tenancy agreement or mortgage details.
If you would like us to check that you are receiving all the benefits and tax credits you're entitled to, bring the following information for everyone who lives in your home:
• if employed or self-employed - number of hours worked
• gross income from employment for the last tax year - a P60 form will provide this
• gross income for this year - payslips
• if you are currently receiving benefits, bring all benefit award letters
• child care costs
• investment income - details of investments and latest interest payments
• tenancy agreement or current mortgage repayment details
• council tax bill
Regarding your debts, please try to bring:
• Details of your income - wage slips, benefit letters, tax credits
• bank statement - latest copy
• details of all those that you owe money to and how much
• copy of original loan agreements
• copy of any court papers
• details of your household expenditure - how much you spend on food, transport, phone and energy bills etc
• copy of latest correspondence you have received - e.g. letters from bailiffs.
I recently lost my job and fell behind on several bills including my council tax, electricity and credit cards. I'm back in work and keen to start paying off my debts, but can't afford to pay them all straight away. What should I pay off first?
First off, draw up a list of who you owe money to, how much you owe, and which of these debts are 'priority debts'. Priority debts include:
• your rent or mortgage
• gas and electric
• and council tax.
These debts should always be paid first as delaying payment can have serious consequences such as having your energy supply cut off, or losing your home. You can use any spare income to tackle your credit cards and personal loans. Citizens Advice has an online budget tool which can help.
You're now ready to start negotiations with your creditor. Put together a letter, otherwise known as a "financial statement", explaining why your ability to repay has been affected, including a full breakdown of your monthly income and outgoings and what you think you can pay. Send this letter to your creditors. For more guidance on putting together your budget and financial statement, go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk or visit your local Citizens Advice.
What can you do if your employer has withheld your pay?
First try and resolve the problem by talking to your employer. You could ask for help from your trade union or from an experienced adviser. Make sure you have a detailed (itemised) pay slip. You have the right to an itemised pay slip so you should ask for one if you have not already been given it.
If talking does not work, raise a written grievance, detailing your complaint. Sign and date your letter and keep a copy. You should do this as soon as possible after your employer has withheld your pay.
If you need to take matters further, you can make a claim to an employment tribunal. Before you can do so, you must contact ACAS and start a process called early conciliation. If you cannot reach a settlement through ACAS, you can then take your claim to an employment tribunal. You may have to pay a fee to do this (for a total of £390). If you are on a low income or receive certain benefits you may be able to have some fees waived, or not have to pay fees at all.
There is usually a 3 month time limit for making a claim to an employment tribunal. The time limit starts from the date when the deduction was made. However, this time limit will be extended by at least a month once you start the early conciliation process.
I am 23 and my employer pays me £6.95 per hour. I have heard that there has been an increase in the minimum wage. Can you tell me what the increase will be for my hourly rate?
From April 1st, for a worker like yourself aged between 21 and 24, the hourly rate of the National Minimum Wage changed to £7.38. For workers aged 25 and over the National Minimum Wage will increase from £7.50 to £7.83 per hour. Workers aged 18 to 20 will be paid £5.90 per hour and workers under 18 will be paid an hourly rate of £4.20.
If you are having problems with an employer not paying the National Minimum Wage, you should contact the dedicated ACAS helpline on 0300 123 1100.
I have returned to work after having a baby. I work 24 hours per week and have been in my job for four years. I'd like to change the days I work to suit my childcare arrangements. What are my rights?
If you have worked for an employer for at least 26 weeks you can ask for flexible working hours and your employer should give your request serious consideration and a good business reason if they don't agree. You should put your request in writing and can make one request per year. For more information look at our public site at www.citizensadvice.org.uk under 'basic rights at work' or pop into your local Citizens Advice office for help.
I'm a private tenant and there's mould in my property. I keep reporting it to the landlord but she won't pay to get the problem fixed. What else can I do?
This is a common problem in private rented properties. If your landlord refuses to fix the problems you can report them to environmental health at Dover District Council.
They can carry out an inspection of your property and if appropriate will contact the landlord in writing requesting the the repairs are carried out. Unfortunately the council are not able to force the landlord to make the repairs and contacting the council could also make the landlord/tenant relationship more uneasy leaving the assured shorthold tenant in a vulnerable position.
I need to urgently find somewhere to live.
If you are looking for new accommodation, please try the following resources.
The Homeless UK website has information about services for homeless people, including hostels, day centres and other advice and support services. Go to www.homless.org.uk.
If you're looking for private rented accommodation, you might want to check if any landlords in your area are part of an accreditation scheme. Accreditation schemes are voluntary schemes that landlords join to show that they provide good quality accommodation. For more information about accreditation schemes in England, go to www.anuk.org.uk. If you're looking for private rented accommodation, you may find it useful to refer to a government publication called How to rent - The checklist for renting in England. It summarises things that assured shorthold tenants need to look out for and what you can expect from a tenancy. It is available from www.gov.uk
You might also find it useful to collect (as appropriate):
• lists of hostels, bed and breakfast hotels and emergency accommodation.
• list of accommodation agencies.
• contact details for social housing landlords such as housing associations
• advice on approaching the local authority as a homeless person
• the addresses of refuges for women in violent relationships
• and information on local housing available for people with special needs.
If you are looking for accommodation, you may be able to get this sort of help from a local authority housing advice centre. You can find the address of your nearest centre in the local telephone directory or from a Citizens Advice office.
I'm thinking about drawing up a will. Do I need a solicitor to do it?
There is no need for a will to be drawn up or witnessed by a solicitor. If you wish to make a will yourself, you can do so. However, you should only consider doing this if the will is going to be straightforward. It is generally advisable to have a solicitor check a will you have drawn up to make sure it will have the effect you want.
There are some common mistakes in making a will which are
• not being aware of the formal requirements needed to make a will legally valid.
• failing to take account of all the money and property available.
• failing to take account of the possibility that a beneficiary may die before you.
• changing the will.
If these alterations are not signed and witnessed, the are invalid.
In order for a will to be valid, it must be:
• made by a person who is 18 or over.
• made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person.
• and made by a person who is of sound mind - this means the person must be fully aware of the nature of the document being written or signed and aware of the property and identity of the people who may inherit.
• and in writing.
• and signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses
• and signed by the two witnesses
• in presence of the person making the will, after it has been signed.
A witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a will. If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married or civil partner of a beneficiary) , the will is still valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit.
Although it will be legally valid even if it is not dated, it is advisable to ensure that the will also includes the date on which it is signed. As soon as the will is signed and witnessed, it is complete. There are some circumstances when it is particularly advisable to use a solicitor.
These are where:
• you share a property with someone who is not your husband, wife or civil partner
• you wish to make a provision for a dependant who is unable to care for themselves
• there are several family members who may make a claim on the will, for example, a second wife or children from a first marriage
• your permanent home is not in the UK
• you are resident here but there is overseas property involved
• there is a business involved.