Browsing Tag

benefits

The Great School Trip Debate – Who Pays?

Posted on 8th June 2011 in school trips

As I searched for £17 this morning to cover the cost of a school trip, a memory popped into my head of a conversation I’d had with another parent about paying for school trips.

Essentially, this person, who was the secretary of the PTA, said that they NEVER paid for school trips and that payment was actually voluntary… According to them all school trips go ahead irrespective of payments received from parents.

A brief chat with @ChrisandHarvey this morning revealed that they’d been told the same thing.

As I sit here looking at the cost of trips this term for one of my children:

 

That’s £272 worth of trips for one of my children for June, July & November – there will of course be other trips and I have 2 children.

I am also a single mum. Not that that is the issue here – although as an aside I do find it odd that some people on benefits qualify for free school meals, music lessons etc but there isn’t a similar dispensation for school trips.

My question is – do you pay for school trips? Do you know someone who doesn’t – and if so do your/their children still get to go?

R is for… Retirement

Posted on 30th November 2010 in benefits/ direct gov/ entitlements/ retirement

My Dad asked me recently where he should look to find out what he is entitled to when he retires, so I figured that as I am doing the research for him I may as well share it in case anyone else would find it useful.

For a general check up of benefit entitlements, there is a site called Turn2Us

The Direct Gov website offers several options for those about to retire, including:

Guide if you’re about to retire

Overview of the different areas covered in this section

Trace a company or personal pension scheme

Find a company or personal pension scheme you’ve lost touch with through the online form from the Pension Tracing Service

Retirement checklist: who to notify, when and why

Claiming the State Pension, checking you’re entitlement to benefits and paying the right tax in retirement

Early retirement – effect on your pension

What effect early retirement might have on your State and other pensions, steps you can take to protect your pension income

How much income will you have in retirement?

Get a pension forecast, trace old pensions, check government benefits and make the most of your savings in retirement

Do you need to top up your National Insurance contributions? (money, tax and benefits section)

Making up the shortfall if you don’t have enough qualifying years in your National Insurance record

Making sure you’ve stopped paying National Insurance

Your National Insurance contributions if you’re working after State Pension age

Why it’s important to fill in your Pension Coding form

When you are nearing State Pension age, complete the ‘Pension Coding’ (P161) form to make sure you don’t pay too much tax

Help if you have little or no pension

If you end up with little or no pension you may be able to get Pension Credit and may be entitled to a non-contributory pension if you are over 80

Report your change of address, bank details or other circumstances to The Pension Service

Find out how and when to report any changes in your circumstances that may affect your pension and benefits

Additional links

Claim more

More about Pension Credit

Over 60? You may be entitled to more money each week

Useful contacts

Benefits from retirement age

The government offers various kinds of financial support for those in retirement – it’s worthwhile finding out if you will qualify. Some are income related, some are not.

Pension Credit

Pension Credit is an income-related benefit for those living in Great Britain who have reached the minimum qualifying age. It guarantees a minimum weekly income (2010-2011) of:

  • £132.60 if you are single
  • £202.40 if you have a partner

If your income in retirement is less than this, you can get top up payments to bring you up to the guaranteed level.

The age from which you can get Pension Credit Guarantee Credit is gradually increasing from 60 to 65 between April 2010 and 2020. To find out the age when you may be able to apply for Pension Credit, you should use the State Pension age calculator.

The State Pension age for both men and women will rise in the future. The government is reviewing the current timetable for increasing the State Pension age from 65 to 66. No decision has yet been made as to how the timetable will change. Any change will require the approval of Parliament.

Changes to the State Pension age are likely to affect the Pension Credit qualifying age.

Other income-related benefits

You may also be entitled to other income-related benefits including:

  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Cold Weather Payment
  • help with funeral costs
  • help with health costs

Benefits not related to income

Some benefits are available whatever your income, including the Winter Fuel Payment, disability payments, attendance allowances and bereavement benefits.

Can anyone suggest any other links that may help someone, about to retire, to find everything that they are entitled to?

D is for… Dealing with Debts

Posted on 19th May 2010 in adultery/ benefits/ counselling/ debt/ divorce/ house/ lies/ solicitor

If you are in debt and feel that you need some help, I hope that reading this will reassure you and offer some useful suggestions.

If you’ve read A is for… And then he left me you will recall that my ex husband left me quite hideously in debt. This was in 2004 which was just before the bankruptcy laws changed – I have to say if it happened to me now, rather than then, I would given serious thought to going bankrupt. Even in 2004 (when the after affects of bankruptcy were much harsher) every debt advisor I spoke to told me to file for bankruptcy.

So, he left on 9 July 2004 (the night before our youngest son’s 3rd birthday). I had no warning of this and, although people find it hard to believe, I had absolutely no idea that it was going to happen.

I knew we had debts, money had been somewhat scarce for several years as he had been frequently ‘off sick’ with a bad back and depression. We had re-mortgaged the house several times, once to consolidate all the debts – except that when the money came through he managed to convince me that he NEEDED some tools (although only dewalt ones obviously), that he DESERVED a playstation, and an x-box, and some games, and some new clothes, and we NEEEDED a new lawn mower etc. So only a small amount of debt ever got repaid.

His attitude to money was always poor. Even when he wasn’t working he would think nothing of spending £5 on a playstation magazine and then say that we couldn’t afford proper  nappies. I stood at the checkout in tesco more times than I care to remember with flaming red cheeks when my debit card was rejected, because he had withdrawn cash to spend on HIM without telling me and without caring if it left enough money for bills and food.

My mum set up a bank account and started paying £20 a month into it, she said it was for me to treat myself with, I didn’t tell him about it, it didn’t seem deceitful as I only ever spent the money on food shopping anyway. Once when I went to withdraw the £20 to use for shopping I was stunned to see there was no money available – when I checked further I saw that the £20 had already been withdrawn. I asked him about it, he said that found the card in my purse and we’d needed milk so he took the money out. The pin was my birthdate – he had guessed it. From then on he would wait for that £20 to land and whip it out straight away. He often drove to the cashpoint at just gone midnight to make sure that HE got the money.

Below is a list of the debts I was left with, this is just from the paperwork that I can find now, I think there were more:

Nationwide negative equity £12,000 – paid £4,600
Halifax overdraft £1,555.54 – paid £1,150
Barclays business overdraft £1,840.69 – paid £921
Barclays overdraft £974 – paid £750
Barclaycard £2,292.35 – paid £1,375.41
Debenhams store card £2,635 – paid £2,355
Dorothy Perkins store card £1,435 – paid £910
Capital One Visa £879 – paid £425
Capital One Visa £1,529 – paid £1,100
Business loan £5,000 – £2,000
Woolwich overdraft £1,841 – paid £1,400
Alliance & Leicester Loan £1,428.71 – paid £800
M&S store card £893 – paid £715
Thames Credit £932 – paid £800
Welcome financial services £781.20 – paid £781.20

As you can see, even with just the debts that I can remember, I was left with £36,016.49 of debt outstanding which cost me £20,082.61 to pay off. I’m pretty sure the total amount I spent paying off debts was closer to £28K so there must be a few that I’ve missed. It took me 6 years – the last debt was cleared in February of this year.

My ex took one debt, an Abbey National current account overdraft of around £700. This was in joint names but he made me sign the account over to him so that he still had a bank account – this, of course, left me without one and with a completely shagged credit rating which meant that I couldn’t get one.

My divorce Solicitor told me that I wouldn’t be able to assign any of the debts over to my ex. She advised me to go bankrupt. The CAB helped me set up a payment schedule – paying £1 a month to each company and advised me to go bankrupt. The CCCS agreed with the CAB.

I didn’t answer my home phone for several years unless I was expecting a call, as most of the time it was a debt company chasing money, I still find it hard to answer it now. Some companies are ok to deal with – some are terrifying.

What makes it even more complicated is that most companies sell on debts, meaning that it was almost impossible to keep track of who I had paid what to – I’m quite sure that I repaid some of the debts twice! For example – the £1,840 debt to Barclays was at one point being chased by Aplins Solicitors, DLC (Direct Legal & Collections), Hillesden Securities Ltd, Buchannon Clark & Wells and Ruthbridge Ltd. That is 5 different companies all chasing 1 debt. All 5 companies claimed theirs was a different debt and that I HAD to deal with them. Sometimes they phoned, sometimes they wrote, sometimes they sent baliffs round – mostly it was a combination of all three methods. Like most of the debts, this particular one was a joint debt so I gave all of them my ex’s details too – I had to laugh one day when a guy from Buchannon Clark & Wells rang me to say that he thought my ex was a complete c*** and that he knew someone who could ‘have a word’ if I wanted him too… Even funnier when my ex rang me the same night in a right state to say that he had just received a threatening phone call and it sounded just like the guy from BCW…

The point of this post is twofold, one to say don’t ignore your debts. They truly don’t go away they just get bigger and more unmanageable. Get a copy of your credit file – this is a huge step towards taking control, yes it will probably tell you things that you don’t want to know, but do you know what? The debts are there whether you acknowledge them or not! You can get one month’s free trial from Experian. Get an A4 ring folder and some dividers and make a file for each debt, then make an appointment to see a debt adviser. A FREE one like the CCCS. DO NOT PAY ANYONE TO ‘SORT OUT’ YOUR DEBTS! Either phone them or write to them asap. Tell them you are experiencing financial difficulties. Tell them your income and your outgoings – make sure you include everything that you have to pay out for. They will help you. If you have some money to repay a debt, NEVER repay the full amount – always offer a reduced settlement figure – 99% of the time they will either accept it or negotiate.

MY DEBT FILE!

Secondly – do not let your solicitor leave you with all the debts! I am so angry that my solicitor allowed me to be left in this situation. Now, 6 years on, my debts are all repaid. I will never have an overdraft or a credit card again, ever. I won’t let my new husband have them either. It isn’t always easy like living like that but we do. We currently rent a house as we now have to save up a deposit to buy, this has set me back massively in terms of ‘steps on the ladder’.

But, having said that, the past is all behind me now, I’ve learnt from it and I can concentrate on the future.

I am very happy to try and help if you have any queries that you think I may be able to answer – just let me know on the comments section below and I will reply to you.

UPDATE – 2oth May 2010 – To answer some questions that have arisen from this post:

1. The negative equity was from a flat that I owned before I met my ex. It was rented out but I had a few problems with tenants and often  had to meet the mortgage payment on that as well as on the house I shared with my ex. When he stopped working for frequent and ever increasing periods, my salary was insufficient to pay both mortgages. He persuaded me to hand in the keys – the second biggest mistake of my life – if I still had that flat and sold it today it would net me 85K profit.

2. All of the debts except the dorothy perkins/debenhams cards were in our joint names. However due to joint and several liability the debt companies had the legal right to pursue me for the entire debt. They chose to do that as because as a mother of 2 young children I was an ‘easy target’, threatening phone calls and visits from big scary men terrified me.

3. Why didn’t I leave him? That is always so hard to answer! I didn’t feel it was acceptable to leave him for being off work – he was depressed, you can’t leave someone for being depressed can you? I couldn’t leave him when his business failed – that was just bad luck, wasn’t it? I couldn’t leave him – because it was christmas, fathers day, mothers day, the kids birthdays etc etc. I couldn’t break my marriage vows – I came from a broken home, I didn’t want me kids to as well. But mainly, I couldn’t leave him because I didn’t have enough self esteem to realise that I should accept all his shit.


R is for… Random Acts of Kindness – Pay It Forward

Posted on 22nd April 2010 in adultery/ benefits/ child/ counselling/ Cry/ debt/ divorce/ guarantor/ house/ self esteem/ son/ writing workshop

R is for… Random Acts of Kindness – Pay It Forward

I looked at the lovely Josie’s Writing Workshop prompts again this week and thought – nah there is nothing there I can write anything about… Kept looking back and running through the list and kept coming up with the same answer – nope nothing there for me. But it was obviously still in my thoughts, as when I was getting dressed this morning a random act of kindness came to mind.

So. R is for… Random Acts of Kindness – Pay It Forward

If you’ve read A is for… And Then He Left Me you will know that in 2004 I was left in a bit of a bastard situation.

During that time although I experienced some incredibly low points I also experienced some amazing acts of random kindness that served as a lesson to me that I will never forget. That lesson being – pay it forward.

As mentioned in A is for… And Then He Left Me I was bailed out of having to move my children to another town to live in a B&B by a ‘friend’ who stood guarantor for me on a rental agreement. What I didn’t say was that this person, who we shall call W, had only known me for 2 weeks when they did it. I never once asked them to do it, in fact I seem to recall that I refused point blank, but W insisted. The letting agency initially turned them down because they had only known me for 2 weeks but, undeterred, W somehow magically sorted it out and my tenancy was approved.

It isn’t normally in my nature to accept things off people, especially people that I hardly know, however there was no financial risk to W (unless I missed payments which I knew that I wouldn’t) and I really had no other option so I begrudgingly accepted this kind and generous offer.

The generosity didn’t stop there though, after learning that my ex-husband wasn’t contributing financially, W then bought my 2 boys ALL their school uniform for the new September term – including PE kit, pencil cases, lunch boxes, shoes and winter coats! PLUS new Star Wars duvets sets and PJs. (And a mysterious deposit of cash – although W denied any involvement in this….)

This is where it got a bit tricky for me and my morals as suddenly money was actually involved. W had bought things and I had no money with which to pay W back. When I, repeatedly, raised this as an objection W’s one and only answer was always: “Pay it forward – if at some point in the future you are ever in a position to help someone who genuinely needs help, you can pay me back by helping them.”

I know this post probably sounds a little unbelievable, but I assure you it is completely true. There were absolutely no strings. I only ever knew W for a short period of time but they made a huge difference to my self-esteem and my belief in human nature and the kindness of strangers.

W used to say that it was redressing the balance, just ‘righting a wrong’, ie my ex-husband had wronged me and W was putting it right. I thank you W from the bottom of my heart.

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