Conquering debt for Debt Awareness Week

By Michelle Stannard

Many of us are affected by debt each year, our staff and trainees included, and that's why we're supporting UK debt charity Step Change and their latest 7 days, 7 ways email programme to mark Debt Awareness Week.

Starting today, their free 7 days, 7 ways email programme will provide you with a week of bite-sized support and advice, encouraging you to take steps to deal with your debt sooner rather than later.  

To contribute to promoting Debt Awareness Week, we've asked our team at Poached Creative for their top tips for managing debt. Here are our top 5.

1. Firstly don't panic if you're in debt because there are lots of solutions to help you get out of that situation including debt counselling and free debt advisory services. Your local Citizen's Advice Bureau will work with you to find the best solution to fit your situation and to help you set up a repayment plan that you can afford. You can also talk to free advisory services such as The Money Advice Service who will be able to provide you with advice and guidance to help you improve your finances. 

If you are currently on or are considering taking on a Debt Management Plan, this shouldn't be costing you any extra money to run. There are plenty of free support services that will be able to set you one up for free, if they feel that it's the best option for you. That way every single penny of what you pay towards your debts is going towards paying them off, and not paying unnecessary fees.

2. If you decide that you want to take out a loan then avoid loan companies such as Wonga who have high interest rates. We'd recommend finding your local Credit Union as they're a community savings and loans provider who have low interest rates, offer affordable repayments and they encourage you to save money.    

3. Avoid taking out store credit or store credit cards. The repayments add up and the interest rates are ridiculously high.

4. If you've got any old games that you no longer play, clothes you no longer wear and/or DVDs you no longer watch then why not give them a new home by selling them on websites such as Music Magpie, local Facebook buy and sell groups or to you local CeX. This is a good way to de-clutter and to make some extra money to help pay for necessities. 

5. Keep a record of your incomings and outgoings. A spreadsheet is the easiest way to do this. It's a really helpful for you to keep on top of your spending, and to help you to work out what you could be saving money on and what excess cash you have each month.

This will also be very helpful if you talk to a debt advisory organisation, and will help them to work out what you can afford to pay back towards your debts each month.

Links to useful organisations:

Step Change

The UK's leading debt charity who offer free tailored advice and practical solutions to help you manage debt and make a fresh start.

Website: Telephone: 0800 138 1111 

The Money Advice Service

Offering free and impartial money advice to help improve your finances. Support is available in person, over the telephone and online.

Website: Telephone: 0300 500 5000

Citizen's Advice Bureau

Providing advice on debt, housing and other areas where support and advice is needed. You can drop-in to your local centre at available drop-in times or book an appointment to speak to somebody face to face. To find your nearest centre visit their website 

Credit Union

Community savings and loans provider with low interest rates. They also offer bank accounts. Find your nearest Credit Union on the website below.

Show your support for Debt Awareness Week by sharing our blog and signing up for the Step Change 7 days, 7 ways email programme. It's one week, make it count!

March For Homes on 31 January

by Yousef Farah

March For Homes

Londoners will march on City Hall on 31 January 2015 to express their anguish and frustration with the ongoing housing crisis in the capital. 

The marchers are expected to voice their demands to the Mayor, including:
  • the need for tougher regulations to control spiralling rent prices which have been increasing by 13% per annum since 2010
  • also the building of new affordable council houses rather than demolishing the ones which already exist to replace them with expensive private developments
  • rent cuts as opposed to benefit cuts
  • the need for decent pay and conditions for housing and care workers as well as calling for the abolition of the controversial bedroom tax.
Defend Council Housing, the South London People’s Assembly and Unite Housing Workers are behind the march.

Glyn Robbins of Defend Council Housing wrote in the Morning Star on 10 January:

“Nothing affects people’s daily lives more than housing. It’s hard to have a decent life without a decent home. But there is a chasm between the level of public concern and the ability, or willingness, of our political system to solve the housing crisis.”
At Poached Creative, we support the aims of the March for Homes. Many of our trainees and staff have been affected by the housing crisis and we recognise the urgent need for a solution.

Lately our colleague John Watts participated and reported on a similar march, in solidarity with 93 families from the New Era Estate in Hoxton. They were battling against eviction by $11bn US investor Westbrook Partners.

Fortunately, months of protests and campaigns paid off. The new owner was announced as Dolphin Living part of the Dolphin Square Foundation, a charity dedicated to providing affordable homes for low and middle income Londoners.

The campaign received high level of publicity and was an eye opener to the public who are starting to realise that unless a permanent solution is found to our fragile and vulnerable housing state of affairs, the problem will continue and expand. Ultimately it is us and future generations who will suffer the consequences of unaffordable housing.

To find out more about the march visit the march official webpage.

Two rallies, one cause

by John Watts

In this centenary of the Great War, rallies held at head office of St Mungo’s Broadway on the last day of the charity workers seven day strike and the New Era Estate Residents outside Westbrook Partners offices at the end of 2014 can be seen as minor events. But what will history say? 

Coalition Chancellor Osborne at London’s Royal Albert Hall had declared hostilities earlier: “You have to get out there and put the business argument. Because plenty of pressure groups, plenty of trade unions and plenty of charities will put the counter view. It is a difficult decision to put your head above the parapet, but that is the only way we are going to win this argument.”

The management of St Mungo's Broadway and Westbrook took him at his word and stuck their heads above the parapet. St Mungo's Broadway, following a recent merger, imposed changes to staff terms, with "retrospective consultation", announced their intention to stop negotiating with Unite union, cuts to pay and conditions including a £5,000 pay cut for new employees, and a £30,000 pay rise for the CEO.

Property firm Westbrook Partners bought the New Era Estate in Hoxton, home to 92 families with a 70 years history of affordable housing. House prices across London rose by 20% in that year with wages drastically failing to keep pace, and then Westbrook announced a massive TREBLE rent increase! The seven-day strike at St Mungo's Broadway had massive support from its workers, charities, clients, local councils and the labour movement as a whole. The threat of further industrial action, and the solidarity expressed for it, made St Mungo's Broadway management decide that it had stuck its head over the parapet long enough.

The rally by the New Era Estate residents and the handing in of the petition to Downing Street, attracted massive media attention helped by certain celebrities voicing their support for their cause, and the fact that 300,000 Londoners had signed the petition.

Westbrook, desperate to duck, sold out to Dolphin Square Foundation, a housing charity committed to, “a rent policy that is demonstrably fair and that decides rents on the basis of Londoners’ earnings rather than market values”.

Housing is on the front line of poverty in Britain, and London in particular. The charities know that Osborne’s ‘business argument’ is the root cause of the increased need for their services. The victories of St Mungo's Broadway workers and New Era Estate residents may be historical aberrations, or they just might be the beginning when these ‘vested interests’ turn the ‘business argument’ on to its hollow hypocritical head.

“HOMES FOR PLEBS!” The rallying cry rang out in front of Downing Street, and least we forget, for the time being is also home to Chancellor Osbourne, I wonder if he heard it?