Benefits and debt advice essential in recession

Did someone say the recession was over? It might be for banks and economists but it isn’t for the thousands of social care clients (and staff) who have lost their jobs, security, homes or sense of well-being in the past 18 months.

Key for us is to ensure clients receive the best possible benefits and debt advice. A good place to start is the A-Z of benefits on the Community Care website. From there, a local welfare rights unit or Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to help your client.

Free online calculators can offer a basic benefit check, such as It’s also worth looking at Quids for Kids – free materials from the Child Poverty Action Group and the Local Government Association to help tackle child poverty through benefit take-up. Visit

If the benefits system fails to meet your client’s needs, they may qualify for help from a grant-giving charity. This could be for a one-off payment to help with a particular item, or it could be for educational grants to help meet some of the costs of retraining courses to improve job prospects.

Turn2us is a directory of more than 3,000 grant-giving bodies and can be reached on 0808 802 2000.

The Association of Charity Officers also has a helpline which can find suitable charities. It can be reached at 01707 651777.

Another key issue is dealing with debt. This can be made much worse if your clients are borrowing money from legal and illegal loan sharks. For example, this is the cost of borrowing £200 for just one month from various providers:

● Authorised bank overdraft: £3.36; annual percentage rate of interest (APR) 13.88%.

● Credit union: up to £4; APR 26.8%. Most charge less, usually 12.68%. See or phone 0161 832 3694 to find your local credit union.

● Pawnbroker: £16; APR 119%.

● Doorstep lender: variable, but between £25 and £35; APR 180%-250%.

● Payday loan: variable, but between £50 and £95; APR 1,737%-10,000%.

● Illegal loan shark – much the same as payday loans but with added violence.

Free confidential advice on debt is available from National Debtline (0808 808 4000); Consumer Credit Coun­selling Service (0800 138 1111); or Payplan (0800 716239).

Gary Vaux is head of money advice, Hertfordshire Council

This article is published in the 3 December issue of Community Care magazine under the heading Gary Vaux: Debt, from banks to loan sharks

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