Family Financial Mediation

Ashford Advice are now able to offer family mediation. This is a process in which an independent, professionally trained mediator helps you work out arrangements for children and finances following separation, it is not marriage guidance.

You may be concerned about the cost of legal fees. If you’re talking to your ex about your issues, and working together to reach agreement through mediation, there is much less need for a solicitor’s time. This means that legal fees can be kept as low as possible.

You can make an appointment for a fixed fee Mediation and Assessment Meeting with our FMC trained mediator by calling 01233 626185

Cost of Living

In the first four months of the year, Ashford Advice helped a record number of people with food bank referrals and access to emergency charitable grants. There is a huge increase on the same period in 2020, and has been contributed to by the support needed by a record number of people in work. 

We are able to help Ashford residents with free, independent advice about debt and debt solutions

New Housing Register

A new housing system and website is being rolled out across Kent to create a more user-friendly service for people on the housing register.

The system, which will be run by provider Huume, will go live in July 2023 and have a new look, be more streamlined and easier to navigate, while still providing the same service.

Once launched, applicants will continue to log into their accounts and be able to view and bid on properties in the Ashford borough as and when they become available, the same as they do now.
 

To move from the current system to the new one, it means that any new applications to the housing register are suspended for a month while outstanding ones are completed and data moved over.

This will happen from 1 June 2023, and Ashford Borough Council suggests applicants wanting to apply to the register put in new applications well before this date. The register resumes on 1 July.

The process for people who find themselves unexpectedly homeless or requiring housing options advice during that month will still be in place.

Kent Homechoice is a partnership of 13 local authorities, 28 housing associations and Kent County Council, which was set up to provide a way to apply for affordable and social housing.

If clients approach Ashford’s housing register team and are considered to be vulnerable and in a high housing need, it will be possible for their applications to be added manually to the Huume system during the period that the housing register is suspended.

For more information please visit www.kenthomechoice.org.uk

Pre-Payment Meter tariffs to change

Prepayment meter customers typically pay more for their energy than those paying by direct debit. But the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt says from 1 July the “prepayment penalty” will end, cutting bills for over four million households.

The change is expected to come into effect from 1 July through updates to the Energy Price Guarantee, with the full announcement on the reform to come in the Chancellor’s budget today

Social Housing Complaints – Make Things Right

Social housing should be safe, secure and well maintained. If you have an issue with your landlord, it’s now easier to make things right.

The Charter says every resident should expect to: ​

  • Be safe in their home​
  • Know how their landlord is performing​
  • Have their complaints dealt with promptly and fairly​
  • Be treated with respect​, backed by a strong consumer regulator for tenants
  • Have their voice heard by their landlord​
  • Have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in​
  • Be supported to take their first step to ownership

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The government is already taking action to achieve the aims sets out in the Charter for Social Housing Residents. This includes:

  1. Allowing for residents to take complaints directly to the Housing Ombudsman Service without delay – by removing the need to go to your MP, local councillor or tenants’ panel first and to wait 8 weeks after completing your landlord’s process
  2. Making smoke alarms mandatory in all social homes, and carbon monoxide alarms mandatory in all social homes with a gas supply
  3. Launching the Social Housing Quality Resident panel to bring together residents from across England to share their views with the government on our approach to driving up the quality of housing
  4. Publishing new tenant satisfaction measures from the regulator to make landlord performance more visible to tenants so they can hold their landlord to account
  5. Publishing an anti-social behaviour information package to clarify the roles of the agencies responsible for tackling anti-social behaviour and the help and support available for tenants
  6. New powers introduced in the Social Housing Regulation Bill for the Housing Ombudsman to identify best practice in case handling, including publishing a new Complaint Handling Code with which social housing landlords are expected to comply and this will be monitored.
  7. The Housing Ombudsman can also now publish guidance on good practice and order social landlords to complete a self-assessment against this guidance when a complaint is received.
  8. In August 2022, we announced that the Department will highlight poor practice by landlords including on its social media platforms. We will publish `Severe Maladministration’ findings by the Housing Ombudsman and judgements of the Regulator of Social Housing that consumer standards have been breached.

Possible U-turn on energy Price Cap

The Times are reporting that Jeremy Hunt is “poised” to extend the government’s £2,500 energy price guarantee for a further three months from April – June rather than lift it to £3,000 as planned.

The move, which is expected by energy companies, is an effort to limit increases in people’s bills until the summer, and would protect households from a 20% hike in bills.

A three-month extension would take us to July, when analysts expect Ofgem’s price cap to drop to around £2,100 per year (for a typical household), well below the government’s current guarantee.

Latest on help with the cost of Energy

The energy price cap is set by Ofcom as a limit on the maximum amount suppliers can charge customers on standard tariffs for each unit of gas and electricity they use, and sets a maximum daily standing charge.

For a typical dual-fuel household paying by direct debit, the price cap is currently set at £4,279/year, expected to fall to £3,280 from 1 April.

The Government pays suppliers of gas and electricity to discount these rates under the price cap with the Energy Price Guarantee, so a consumer with typical use currently pays £2,500/year, but this is expected to rise to £3000/year from 1st April

In addition to this consumers should get a £400 discount directly from their supplier to help with energy bills over winter 2022 to 2023. This is called the Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS).

The change in the Energy Price Guarantee means the average household on direct debit with dual fuel will pay another £40.00/month, however the effect of ending the subsidy under the Energy Bills Support Scheme will in effect mean an overall rise of over £100.00/month.

Whilst the new Energy Price Guarantee is expected to last for the next 12 months, if Ofgem’s price cap falls below this level, households will pay the lower amount.

This is predicted to happen in July, with analysts Cornwall Insight forecasting the price cap to fall to £2,153 a year, and staying around that level when it changes again in October.

Help for Households

Cost of Living Payments 2023 to 2024

The government has announced when further Cost of Living Payments will be made between spring 2023 and spring 2024. These payments are:

  • £301 for people on an eligible low income benefit, to be paid during spring 2023
  • £150 for people on an eligible disability benefit, to be paid during summer 2023
  • £300 for people on an eligible low income benefit, to be paid during autumn 2023
  • £300 for pensioner households, to be paid during winter 2023 to 2024
  • £299 for people on an eligible low income benefit, to be paid in spring 2024

Further guidance will be published when more details have been announced, including the qualifying dates.

Free Confidential Debt Advice

If you are worried about debt, please come into out offices and an experienced adviser will be able to provide free, confidential debt advice. We are open from 09:30 to 11:00 Monday to Friday – no appointment is necessary

We will need accurate up-to-date information about all your income and spending.

This includes the following

  • Wage slips,
  • Benefit statements,
  • Pension income statements,
  • Last 3 months Bank statements,
  • Utility bills such as gas, electricity and water.
  • Council Tax Bill
  • Tenancy agreement or details of rent payable
  • Mortgage Statement (if appicable)

We will also need

  • your latest letters/statements from your creditors;
  • details of your addresses for the past 6 years
  • your free statutory credit report from a credit reference agency. 

You can obtain your statutory report from 

Experian at https://www.experian.co.uk/consumer/statutory-report.html

Equifax at https://www.equifax.co.uk/Products/credit/statutory-report.html

​​​​​​​Transunion at https://www.transunionstatreport.co.uk/CreditReport/AboutYou

Free Credit Report

Your statutory credit report details your credit history. It contains public and private information recorded in your name and is available to authorised lenders carrying out a credit check. Credit reports are used by lenders to help them in making decisions about whether to give you credit or not.

You can obtain your free statutory credit report from:

Experian at https://www.experian.co.uk/consumer/statutory-report.html

Equifax at https://www.equifax.co.uk/Products/credit/statutory-report.html

​​​​​​​Transunion at https://www.transunionstatreport.co.uk/CreditReport/AboutYou