What is Money Advice?

The thought of getting Money Advice can sound strange. Can I trust someone to look into my finances? How could a stranger even do anything about my debts?

The current cost of living crisis means more and more people are struggling with debt. But even if you’re struggling to make ends meet, it doesn’t mean your debt problem is unsolvable. It might not be easy or quick to resolve, but there’s always a route. And the earlier you seek help, the easier it is to find.

This article will help you understand what money advice is, whether it is right for you and why you should seek help if you are struggling with finances. Here are five points to help you understand what to expect when you contact our Money Advice Team.

  1. What is Money Advice?
  2. Who are the Money Advisers at South West London Law Centres?
  3. How can a Money Adviser help me?
  4. Can I get my debts written off?
  5. What sort of Debt Options are there?

What is Money Advice?

Getting help from a money advice charity means speaking to a trained professional who can help you find a way for you to deal with your debts, even the most challenging ones.

Our aim is to look at your situation as a whole: what your income is, what your expenditure is, who you owe money to, and see where the path through them is. It may be that you’re not getting the right benefits, or you may be able to apply for some discounts that could reduce your bills. Sometimes, even just getting someone a better mobile phone deal can save them enough money to afford their water bill.

There are plenty of options out there. To get an idea of what these are, you can read National Debtline’s factsheet here.

You should always aim to speak to a charity: this is because you will get help from someone who is paid to help you, not to make money out of you. As a debt charity, we offer one-to-one, confidential appointments with our advisers whose job it is to find a debt solution for you. We’ve got plenty of examples of how we’ve helped people which you can read here.

Often, people come to us after they’ve seen an advert on TV or YouTube from someone offering debt plans or consolidation options. These companies are very good at making these options look attractive – and while they might be good for you in the short term, they will almost certainly cost you more in the long term. Put simply, you should avoid them. Speak to one of our charity debt advisers first.

Who are the Money Advisers at South West London Law Centres?

We have the equivalent of three and a half full-time advisers who are committed to finding a way to get your debts sorted. Whatever the reason you are struggling right now, when you first contact us you can expect one of our friendly advice assistants to help book you an appointment.

They know how difficult it is for people to make that first step to reach out for help. You can trust them to be your first point of contact for any questions you may have about your upcoming appointment. If don’t yet have one booked, please contact us on debt@swllc.org or by calling 020 8667 9252.

Once you have your appointment, you will speak to one of our advisers. You can read who we are here.

How can a Money Adviser help me?

As Money Advisers, it is our job to look at your situation to see what the best option is for you. It may be that one debt in particular is worrying you, but you can expect us to look at your situation as a whole. For example: you may be getting visits from bailiffs for a Council Tax debt, but the solution may be elsewhere, such as by getting you a Taxicard to free up the money you need to repay the debt.

One of the first things we do is try to understand whether you are in debt crisis. This will look different for each one of us, but generally you are considered to be in debt crisis if you feel like:

  • you are struggling to pay your basic outgoings e.g. rent, council tax, energy bills etc.
  • even if you manage to pay your basic outgoings, you cannot cover your minimum credit card payments, or you are falling behind on your contracts and subscriptions
  • you are consistently spending more than you have coming in.

So, even if it’s the Council Tax bailiffs outside your door that are worrying you most, you can expect your debt adviser to:

  • help you check you are getting the right benefit entitlements
  • check you are getting the right discounts: are you disabled but don’t have the London Taxicard? Do you know about WaterHelp?
  • check if you are eligible for any grants
  • check what temporary options there are to stop enforcement action
  • come up with your longer-term options for dealing with debt.

You can explore many of these options by yourself. The charity turn2us has a user-friendly search tool that helps you find grants you may be eligible for. You can also check out their benefits calculator here. But often this is only part of the solution. That’s why it’s always worth speaking to a professional to see what long-term plans are out there.

Can I get my debts written off?

We get asked this question a lot. It is not easy to convince creditors to stop collecting a debt you owe to them and agree to write it off. It is important to understand that most creditors are commercially minded and will want to explore all their options to collect the money. You will normally have to convince a creditor that writing off the debt is in their best interest as well as in yours. Usually, this means showing them why there is no likelihood of them getting enough money back to make it worth pursuing you for the debt any longer. Some of the reasons for this might be you can never work again due to your health or there has been a change in the household such as a bereavement which means the amount of money coming in has changed significantly. 

Although a write-off on a debt is not easy to get, it is possible and has clear benefits: you are released from the burden of the debt, you stop facing recovery action and you can make a fresh start. 

Whether your write-off request will be successful depends of a number of things, such as whether you are a homeowner, whether you have any spare income, whether you have any permanent health issues, whether it is a joint debt, whether you are facing exceptional financial hardship, what kind of debt it is etc. To find out more, contact us.

What sort of Debt Options are there?

There are lots of Debt Options, and most of them depend on whether or not you have any spare income left at the end of the month, after you’ve covered your living expenses. To make sure you’re choosing the right debt option for you, speak to one of our advisers.

First of all, there are some bills and debts that should be dealt with as a priority: this is because the consequences of not paying them can leave you at risk of losing your home or other assets. Prioritising debts is one way of managing your debts.

Next, you can expect your adviser to talk about three main kind of debt options:

  • income maximisation options (making sure you’re getting the right benefits, deals and discounts)
  • temporary options (schemes like Breathing Space), and
  • long-term options (e.g. requesting a write off, setting up a repayment plan, or applying for a Debt Relief Order. There’s a longer list of existing debt options in National Debtline’s factsheet here.)

So, to access our free and impartial advice: