Know your rights: February’s debt news

posted by in Budgeting, Debt news

Justice scales law

Typical English weather?

It’s the start of the month and the start of spring so it’s time to give you a run down of the previous month’s debt news.

What’s changed over the past month? Are there any updates to the law that could affect you?

Read on to find out…

It’s been a busy month for StepChange Debt Charity and especially here in the MoneyAware team. Hopefully you will have watched on the 6th February as we used Google maps to show where people called our Helpline from. We called this debt help realisation the ‘lightbulb moment’ and on the day we reported how many calls we received, where they were calling from and the total amount of debt.

The figures were so insightful that we caught the eye of Guardian Money who tracked us throughout the day. They said:

“It is not exactly news that people are struggling with their debts or advice charities are seeing an increase in calls, but watching the numbers add up during the day was alarming.”

We’re still interested to know more about people seeking debt help, so get in touch to let us know what made you contact us. Did you did it straightaway or did you wait to see if things improved first?

Lower levels of court enforcement

While it seems that the economic climate keeps getting worse the value of county court judgements (CCJs) actually decreased last year. We hope that this is because people are seeking help sooner.

As well as less CCJs, not only did house repossessions fall last year but so too did the number of bankruptcies.

Along similar lines, the Co-operative bank has recently taken steps to help their existing customers by freezing overdraft fees with a pre-agreed facility.

As we always say, it’s much better to seek debt help sooner rather than later – the situation can only get worse if it’s left alone but there’s nothing to lose by receiving some impartial advice. Watch out for more articles in the near future about how getting advice sooner can help.

Debt noose

It was widely reported this week that families are struggling with a tightening ‘debt noose’, paying almost £200 per month in interest payments.

The findings were contained in a report StepChange Debt Charity released called StepChange Consumer Debt and Money Report Q4 2011 (PDF). It predicted that those aged 45+ will be the largest group seeking debt help by 2014.

Rising heat

A report from Barnado’s has revealed that rising energy prices have left the poorest families £450 short of being able to heat their homes properly. The cold spell that we had at the beginning of February has resulted in many households choosing between a warm house and other priorities.

With this in mind, the energy watchdog Ofgem has said that a cap on fuel bills could be introduced. It would be the first time in more than ten years that this could happen as Ofgem are concerned that the six big energy firms are taking advantage of their customers.

Rogue bailiffs

Bailiffs hit the news last month after the Ministry of Justice called for changes to laws governing bailiffs in England and Wales.

It’s down to the number of complaints about the way that ‘rogue’ bailiffs behave and the fact that those in debt don’t have enough protection against them or know their rights. We blogged about your rights with bailiffs to clarify what they can and can’t do on lovemoney.com.

That’s it for this month but don’t forget to let us know if you see something that catches your eye. This caught mine, and it’s certainly an original way to find employment!

We’ll have lots more in the coming weeks about the imminent changes to Tax Credits and how they will affect you.

Don’t forget that you can post a comment below or get in touch through Facebook or Twitter if you’d like to get in touch with us.

Pavan Gata-Aura is a qualified debt advisor with 6 years of experience. She enjoys spending time with her two children, fundraising for charities, has spent time volunteering in Africa and takes part in organised races.

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