Welfare rights

Welfare Rights Service

The service offers free advice, support and representation to people in South Tyneside. We can help with the following types of queries:

  • Benefit entitlements
  • Employment rights
  • Debt and money problems
  • Housing issues

Find out more:

Welfare Rights Service

 

Money and benefit advice services

Frequently Asked Questions


Am I entitled to any holiday pay?

Most workers have the legal right to 28 days paid holiday a year. If you are a fixed-term worker or a worker in your first year of employment, you are entitled to paid holiday in the same way as full time workers. If you work part-time your holiday leave is based on your normal working week, so if you normally work 2 and a half days a week you will be entitled to 14 days paid leave a year.

Can I stop the bailiffs coming to my home?

If you receive notification that a bailiff is going to call to your home, contact the bailiff's office immediately. If you can afford to pay the debt off in full - offer to do so. If not, you can try to negotiate with the bailiffs by offering regular weekly or monthly payments. Be sure to offer an amount you can afford and send them a letter with details of your income and expenditure with a brief explanation of you current circumstances.

If the bailiffs refuse to accept your offer, you can apply to the court to try to stop them taking action. To do so, complete form N245, which is available from the county court (0191 456 3343 or online at www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk and follow the links to forms and guidance).

Form N245 asks for details of your income and expenditure and your repayment offer. It costs £35 to submit the application, but if you receive certain benefits or have a low income, you may be exempt from this charge. Ask the court staff for more information.

Can the bailiffs break in?

Most bailiffs do not have the right to force their way into your home to seize your goods.

Forced entry means pushing past you once you have opened the door to them or leaving their foot in the door to prevent you closing it. They can however, enter by closed but unlocked doors and opened windows.

Some bailiffs who have been instructed to act because you owe money to HM Revenue & Customs or because you have unpaid magistrates court fines, can break in, but only if they obtain a magistrate's warrant - this is very rare.

Complaints about the bailiff, what can I do?

If a bailiff's behaviour has been unduly aggressive, or you believe that the value of the goods seized is more than the debt, write to the court manager of the county court concerned. The court manager will investigate the complaint and inform you of what action can be taken. It is important to remember that auction prices are usually significantly lower than high street prices.

If you think you do not owe some or all of the money the court is demanding you should contact the organisation that is claiming the money from you.

Do I have to let the bailiffs in?

If the bailiffs do visit your home you can chose not to let them in. If you refuse to let them in however, and don't negotiate with them, they will return and will add a call-out fee to your debt every time they visit. It's important therefore to act quickly to resolve the situation.

How much is the national minimum wage?

There are different levels of national minimum wage, depending on the age of the worker. The rates increase in October each year. 

To see the current national minimum wage, visit GOV.UK: Minimum wage.

The minimum wage applies to anyone entitled to work in this country including those people from overseas who work for a short period only.

For more information call the pay and work rights helpline on 0800 917 2368. This is also the number to ring if you think you are being underpaid and wish to make a complaint.

I am a carer. Can I get any financial help?

You may be able to claim Carer's Allowance.

While you get Carer's Allowance you will get Class 1 National Insurance credits, which count towards your retirement pension. Some carers can also get a Council Tax discount.

However, if you claim Carer's Allowance the person you care for may lose some of their means-tested benefits, so it is best to seek advice before you claim.

Find out more about  Carer's Allowance.

My debts are getting out of control. What can I do?

If you are having debt problems it is important not to ignore them. Talk to the people you owe the money to and let them know that you are having problems. Most organisations will be more willing to help if you approach them first.

The first thing to do is to check that you are getting all the benefits and tax credits to which you are entitled. Next, you should draw up a personal budget or financial statement. A financial statement will help you see how much income and expenditure you have each week or month and how much money is left over i.e. 'disposable' income. You could also look at ways of cutting back on your outgoings for example by finding a cheaper fuel supplier or insurance provider.

If you have more than one debt you will need to work out your priority debts. Priority debts are the debts that could have serious results if not paid. For example if you cannot keep up with your rent or mortgage payments you could lose your home, or if you cannot pay your gas or electricity bills you could be cut off. Once you have decided which are your priority debts, you will then need to work out how much you can realistically afford to pay back.

You will need to share the disposable income among your priority creditors and if there is anything left make pro rata offers to secondary creditors such as loan companies or credit cards.

It is important to make offers you can realistically afford, and stick to them. Sometimes people try to pay more than they can afford, and fall behind again.

You can contact your nearest advice centre or the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 or  National Debtline for help. National Debtline provides online personal budget sheets for you to use and sample letters to send to creditors.

Once in what can I expect from the bailiffs?

If you let a bailiff into your home, s/he will identify goods to be removed or 'seized' for sale at public action to pay the debt that you owe. This is called 'levying distress'. The bailiff can then remove the goods immediately. If you agree to pay the debt in instalments and the bailiff agrees, the bailiff can leave the goods in your home - this is called a 'walking possession'. If you can afford to pay the debt in full the bailiff will leave without taking anything - ask for a receipt of any payments you make.

Once the bailiffs have been inside your house by entering peacefully, they can call again at a later date and enter without your permission, forcefully, to remove your goods.

If possible, ask a witness to be present when the bailiffs visit.

What are Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance?

They are social security benefits for people who have a long-term illness or disability. Different rates are paid depending on how much help you need. They are paid on top of most other benefits and if you get them you may even be entitled to extra Income Support, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Tax Credits, or Pension Credit.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) must be claimed before you reach the age of 65. If you qualify for it you can continue to get it past 65 for as long as you meet the rules.

DLA has two parts:

  • a care component for people who need supervision or help with their personal care
  • a mobility component for people who have difficulty getting around outside.

You can get both components or just one of them.

If you are 65 or older and you need supervision or help with your personal care, you will have to claim Attendance Allowance (AA) instead. Unfortunately, you won't be able to get any help for mobility problems through AA.

You cannot get DLA and AA at the same time.

What goods can't the bailiffs seize?

Bailiffs cannot seize the following 'essential' goods:

  • Clothing, bedding, most furniture, your fridge and cooker
  • Fixtures and fittings
  • Rented goods
  • Goods on hire purchase
  • Goods that belong to someone else (you will need to show proof i.e. receipts)
  • Tools of your trade.

What is a 'walking possession' agreement?

A walking possession agreement means that goods e.g. non essential items of furniture that have been identified by the bailiff once in your home, legally belong to the bailiff and can be removed at any time. By signing a walking possession agreement you agree not to sell the goods - doing so would be a criminal offence. The bailiff will allow the goods to remain in your home and you can continue to use them providing you continue to make agreed payments. In order for a walking possession agreement to be valid, a bailiff must have gained peaceful entry and not for example have looked through your window.

What is Mobility Allowance?

Mobility Allowance is now called the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance. It is paid to people who have difficulty getting around outside. There are two different rates and they are paid for very different reasons.

The lower rate (£20.55 a week in 2012 - 2013) is for people who can walk, but need someone with them (for most of the time) to guide or supervise them when on unfamiliar routes outdoors.

There can be many reasons for needing this guidance or supervision. Some examples are people who:

  • have a visual impairment
  • are deaf and cannot understand spoken or written instructions or directions well enough to get around on their own
  • have falls, fits or seizures and need someone to help them cope
  • have a mental health problem which causes them to get confused, frightened, aggressive, etc.
  • have learning difficulties.

The higher rate (£54.05 a week in 2012 - 2013) is for people who have a physical illness or disability that severely limits their walking ability. This can be because of something like severe discomfort, breathlessness, poor balance, the risk of aggravating a condition like angina or asthma, or because they walk very slowly.


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