With all the doom and gloom coming our way it’s no wonder we have seen an increase in the number of clients walking in through our doors. This year alone we have already helped over 300 new clients as well as continuing to support many more existing clients. This would not have been possible without the help and assistance of our trusted volunteer team.
We are a volunteer led organisation and it is our volunteers that support the majority of our casework here. Volunteers undertake a variety of tasks ranging from answering phone calls, taking down case referrals to preparing appeal bundles and supporting clients in courts and tribunals. Our volunteers love the fact that no two days are the same and they get to do exactly the same casework as the staff so no boring administrative tasks.
We are very grateful to all of our volunteers old and new for all their hard work, dedication and enthusiasm. Without them it would not be possible for us to help the sheer number of people that we do! If you are interested in volunteering at Z2K you can see the opportunities we have available here.
This is a record of day I spent with a bailiff company employed by the Ministry of Justice in May 2010. Although the bailiff’s in question were clearly on their best behavior and the experience of our clients demonstrate that this isn’t often the case it still provides a useful insight.
I met a manager at the company, who I will call Paul, for a coffee before we headed to their office. There I was informed that company were ‘absolutely petrified and had sent along the directors PA to ensure things run as smoothly as possible.’ I was shocked as I thought what exactly do they think will I do? Continue reading
We have recently been inundated with calls from distressed clients informing us that they have bailiffs knocking on their door or the bailiffs are in their property refusing to leave. Having their privacy invaded in such a brutal manner can be one of the most disturbing and frightening moments of a client’s life. With nowhere to turn clients often feel bullied into letting bailiffs into the sanctity of their home. Although we have said it before it is important to continually stress that debtors must not let the bailiffs in. Once bailiffs are in your home they have many powers available to them. As intimidating as bailiffs can be one must not forget that they are not usually allowed to force their way in to someone’s home. There are some instances where they can force their way in though most bailiffs choose not to exercise that right. Continue reading
Mrs W came to see us after a referral from her child’s school teacher who noticed she and the family were struggling to keep up with their basic household payments. When she came to see us we saw that her finances were in a complete mess simply because she chose to work despite being ill and having three children under the age of 12.
The salary from her low paid office job was not enough to pay her for the child care costs, as well as rent and all the other essential household bills including her council tax. We also discovered that Mrs W’s landlord had served eviction proceedings against her as she was constantly underpaying rent.
After completing some benefit checks and examining the client’s finances we found that she was entitled to some housing and council tax benefit but was not claiming as no one had ever told her she was eligible. After several letters and many phone calls we managed to get her back dated housing and council tax benefit which enabled her to clear her arrears with both these departments. We also set up payment arrangement plans with her utility companies. They all accepted that she was a single mother trying her best to make ends meet, and were happy to receive some money towards the arrears.
Mrs W is now coping well financially and extremely grateful for all our help. Mrs. W’s case shows that despite the popular conception of single mothers the reality is one of daily struggle to make ends meet, even if you have a job. I’m sure there are many more people like Mrs. W who are unaware of the benefits their entitled. If you are in a similar situation or know someone who is you can always give us a call or find out what you are entitled to with this simple calculator.
If you owe money, one of the ways your creditors might try to get their money back is by using bailiffs. The role of the bailiffs is to take your goods away and sell them to raise money to pay your creditors.
As a charity that supports vulnerable people in debt we frequently have to deal with bailiffs and have recently experienced an increase in the number of clients contacting us for advice on bailiff related matters. Our clients usually call when they have had a nasty visit and/or letter from the bailiff company demanding money and informing them that they will enter the property to seize goods to settle the outstanding amounts. This often leaves vulnerable households worried, under extreme pressure and at risk of taking drastic action such as taking out pay day loans. A lot of our clients are unaware of the powers these bailiffs actually have and cannot see beyond their aggressive and threatening behaviour.
We always advise our clients they do not have to open the door to the bailiffs and that they must ensure they keep their doors and windows securely locked. Although in most circumstances bailiffs are not allowed to force their way in to a property they are however allowed to enter via peaceful means, such as climbing through an open window. Bailiffs can however force entry to your property and seize your goods without notice if they have already gained entry once via peaceful means. This means that you must take care to ensure that you don’t allow them entry under any circumstances.
Once they gain entry they can place walk in possession orders on goods belonging to the debtor, which they can then auction off if the debt remains unpaid. If a bailiff gains entry to a property their charges immediately go up. Yet goods sell at bailiff auctions for derisory sums. This means that ultimately if bailiffs seize goods it is highly unlikely the prices goods fetch will cover the enforcement costs, let alone the original debt.
To this extent, in the 21st century the whole idea of seizure of goods is a legal fiction for if it actually happens as statute lays down, everyone including the bailiffs and their creditors will be out of pocket and the debt will not be paid off. Bailiffs are therefore used simply as a threat to try and intimidate you into paying your debts
Fortunately there are rules and policies about how bailiffs should behave. They are not allowed to threaten you or pretend to have more legal powers than they really have. They must take special care when dealing with people who are considered vulnerable, for example if you’re elderly, disabled, seriously ill or find it difficult to speak, understand or read English. The National Standards for Enforcement Agents also require bailiffs discovering a vulnerable situation should report the matter back to the creditor. The better bailiff companies are doing this and creditors need to build this into the controls they exercise over debt recovery. If you find bailiffs breaking any of these rules you may have grounds for a civil case against them and should report it immediately.
For more advice on dealing with Bailiffs see the Citizens Advice Bureau guide here.
Just a few weeks after the Paralympics closing ceremony the idea that Atos was allowed to sponsor a celebration of the enormous achievements of disabled athletes still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
Atos has a lucrative contract with the Department of Work Pensions to carry out Work Capability Assessments, which are used to decide whether an individual is fit for work immediately, in the medium term or not at all. We are consistently approached by clients who have been wrongly assessed as fit to work, even when they are suffering from serious debilitating illnesses
One such example is Mr Y. Mr Y came to see us having had an assessment with Atos where he gained only 6 points and was declared fit to work, despite having a complex combination of serious illnesses. When we spoke to him and examined his medical documents it was quickly apparent that he was in no state to work and thus had a good case to mount an appeal.
We lodged the appeal immediately in order to have his Employment and Support Allowance reinstated as soon as possible. However the very next day Mr Y’s sister called us to say he had been rushed to hospital with complications arising from illnesses. At the hospital he fell into a coma, where he remained for 6 weeks. This shocking news strengthened our resolve to fight as hard as we could to have his benefits reinstated, so that he wouldn’t wake from his coma to find himself in debt.
After much hard work, submitting detailed evidence and arguing DWP decided to reinstate his benefits and reverse their original decision to find him fit for work. Even though we managed to secure a good outcome for our client in the end this raises serious questions about Atos’s assessment procedure. If such a seriously ill man can be declared fit to work then surely there must be something fundamentally wrong with the system?
Not all mistakes by the Department of Work and Pensions are bad for our clients.
Two months after winning a low tier tribunal appeal Miss R still had not received a backdated ESA payment. Surviving on an assessment rate of ESA was exacerbating her medical conditions and causing severe financial hardship.
We made several phone calls, sent off complaint letters and even contacted her local MP still without much success. Finally our CEO spoke to a DWP manager who assured us that payment would be made as soon as possible.
She was finally paid what she was owed not once but twice, resulting in a substantial overpayment. Luckily after much hard work Z2K managed to get it written off as an unrecoverable ‘official error’. We feel that this is compensation for the amount of stress Miss R has received over the weeks. Miss R was reluctant to keep it at first but we’ve told her she has every right and is now saving it for a rainy day.