April’s debt and money news

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April’s debt and money news has an ongoing theme of change. With changes to benefits, the way you apply for bankruptcy and the National Living Wage being introduced for those over 25, it’s all happening.

We’ve also got highlights from two of our recently released reports that give us an insight into problem debt in the UK.

That’s not all, it also turns out that we’re still confused by our energy bills and find out why 50 Cent is in trouble yet again with the judge dealing with his bankruptcy…

The National Living Wage introduced

On 1 April the National Living Wage was introduced in the UK. Workers, part-time and full-time, aged 25 and over will now receive at least £7.20 per hour. It’s hoped that the wage will continue to increase with the aim for it to rise to £9 per hour by 2020.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has said the raise will affect 1.3 million workers. There have been reports that some employers, particularly in London, are set to pay their employees more than the living wage too. However, there have also been claims that jobs and working hours may be cut as a result of the increased wage.

This isn’t to be confused with the Living Wage recommended by the Living Wage Foundation. That would mean £8.25 for everyone over 18, with £9.40 for those in London.

Statistics Yearbook 2015

We recently released our Statistics Yearbook for 2015, giving an insight into personal debt in the UK and a better understanding of the causes and consequences of it.

We found:

  • The need for debt advice has increased by 48% in the past three years with 549,053 people contacting us for advice in 2015
  • 57% of people seeking help from us in 2015 were employed, with 19% were working part-time
  • 75% of our clients in 2015 were living in rented accommodation
  • 1 in 5 of the people who came to us for help in 2015 were single parents

Read our round-up article of some of our key findings from the Statistics Yearbook.

Changes to benefits

At the start of April changes were made to certain benefits. Included in the changes were:

  • A freeze on working age benefits for four years
  • A reduction in the work allowance (the maximum you can earn before your benefit payment is reduced) if you claim Universal Credit
  • The family premium included in Housing Benefit (worth up to £22.20 per month) has been removed for new claimants
  • A new state pension has been introduced, replacing the basic State Pension and State Second Pension system we currently have

Changes have also been made to Working and Child tax credits. There are many other changes that will be significant for some claimants, which we’ve put together in a round up article for all the April 2016 benefits changes (alongside any that are due for the autumn).

If you’re unsure about the benefits you should be receiving, use our online benefits checker to make sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to.

The new way to apply for bankruptcy

In last month’s debt news we reported on the changes being made to the way you apply for bankruptcy in England and Wales.

The changes came into effect earlier this month and now you can apply for bankruptcy online rather than having to go to a court.

The changes mean it’s also slightly cheaper to go bankrupt now. Formerly it cost a total of £705 in England and Wales. With the changes, the cost’s come down to £655.

If you’re thinking about applying for bankruptcy it’s important you get expert debt advice first, to make sure it’s the right solution for you.

NHS dental prices in England set to increase

The government has announced proposed changes to the cost of dental treatment in England. The increase will be 10% in total, with a 5% rise in charges this year and a further 5% in 2017. At the moment prices in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are to stay the same.

Band 1 treatment is set to rise from £18.80 to £19.70. In April 2017 it’ll rise to £20.60.

Band 2 treatment is set to rise from £51.30 to £53.90. In April 2017 it’ll rise to £56.30.

Band 3 treatment is set to rise from £222.50 to £233.70. In April 2017 it’ll rise to £244.30.

The British Dental Association has criticised the decision as they believe it’ll “discourage the patients that are in most need of care“.

You can find out how to register with an NHS dentist on the NHS website. If you’re on a low income you may be able to apply for help with NHS fees, including dental work.

Energy bills are still too confusing

Do you understand your energy bills? Two years ago new rules were introduced by Ofgem to ensure that energy firms made bills easier for consumers to understand. The hope was that clearer bills would make it easier for customers to get a good deal.

However, recent research has shown that 6 in 10 of us still don’t understand our energy bills.

Almost 7 out of 10 under 35 year olds said they found it difficult to understand their bills, while half of those aged over 55 said the same.

With uSwitch voicing concerns that some customers are missing out on better energy deals, Ofgem is planning to trial new bill formats to make them easier for everyone to understand.

Scotland in the Red

Our Scotland in the Red report was released at the end of last month, looking at the changing nature of problem debt in Scotland. We’ve based our report on 6,758 telephone debt advice sessions that we held in Scotland in 2015.

The report highlighted that our Scottish clients spend 48% of their income on priority bills. These include things like rent, council tax and utility bills. Furthermore, 36% of our Scottish clients are in Council Tax arrears, a figure that’s doubled since 2010.

And finally…

It seems that 50 Cent is in the doghouse again with the judge currently overseeing his bankruptcy.

Fiddy was reprimanded last month for posing with piles of what he insists was fake money. This time the judge gave him a slap on the wrist for bringing his phone into court, according to this article from The Independent. There’s a ban on electronic devices in the court room.

Apparently the judge was ‘tired of using technology’ (I’m here all week).

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