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Extract from sankes and ladders game
Snakes and Ladders - Climbing out of Poverty A snakes and ladders game has been developed to highlight the pitfalls and the support that can affect the level of poverty experienced by local people. A launch event of the game took place on 20 April at Shirebrook Market, and Dennis Skinner MP and Natascha Engle MP were first up to play. Here is a short video of both MPs playing the game. Video Footage

Financial Inclusion Project Case Studies

MPs Play Snakes and Ladders to Highlight the Plight of those in Poverty

On Friday 20 April Dennis Skinner MP and Natascha Engel MP rolled the first dice on a life size game of Snakes and Ladders.  Shirebrook Market Place was the venue for the first outing of the game produced by the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres (DUWCs).

The game, which everyone knows from childhood, seeks to show how difficult it can be to achieve a secure, full-time job that will lift a person and their family out of poverty.

“I got the idea from a group of people experiencing poverty who are in the organisations Migrant Voice and ATD Fourth World.” said Colin Hampton Co-ordinator of the DUWCs, “They produced a mural depicting a game of Snakes and Ladders expressing the policies and practical guidance that helps people achieve their goals and those which prevent a person from escaping poverty often making things worse.”

“I was very impressed.” Colin went on to say “I asked them if I could develop the idea as an educational tool making a life-size version using people as counters.  They gave me the thumbs up and Bolsover Partnership agreed the funding through Community Volutary Partners (CVP) and Financial Inclusion Project.”

DUWCs say that Public Attitude Surveys show an alarming ignorance of the causes of poverty and the difficulties that people face.  A majority put poverty down to bad luck, personal failing or a natural occurrence. DUWCs argue that research shows that poverty is fuelled by a range of factors as well as being closely linked to the start a person has in life.

“We hope that through this game we can show people the ladders – Credit Unions, high quality training, job creation, support and advice, that can help people achieve their potential.” Colin went on to say. “We also want to highlight the pitfalls that many people face – the cutting of benefits, the breakdown of relationships, discrimination against those suffering ill health and disability, to name but a few.”

Following the high profile players, including Cllr Eion Watts and Cllr Anne Western, members of the public were invited to play the game.

“We hope that at the end of the game people will realise that poverty does not only exist in developing countries.  Many people in the UK are living hand to mouth with no bank account, few local shops and constantly juggling bills and debts.” Colin concluded.

After the launch the game will be exhibited at Shirebrook Academy on Thursday 26th April, Bolsover School on May 12th and at galas and events throughout the spring and summer.

 

Mr W

Mr W was claiming DLA high mobility/middle rate care and Pension Credit with his wife. He was taken into hospital where he remained for two weeks. He received a letter stating that his DLA would be stopped as he had been in hospital for more than four weeks. Subsequently, this resulted in their Pension Credit being suspended.  We wrote to the hospitals where he stayed to get discharge letters. These show that the claimant was only hospitalised for two weeks. Shortly after appealing the decision and sending evidence, the decision was revised. The claimants’ payments were re-instated – DLA £1,611.20 arrears and £100.70 per week and Pension Credit £2,132.12 arrears and £115 per week.

 

Miss Y

Miss Y was married with three children. Her partner had recently found employment which amounted to 20 hours per week. She was informed that they would currently be entitled to Tax Credits along with their Child Tax Credits, however, due to Government changes to Tax Credits, from April 2012 they would no longer be entitled to Working Tax Credits.  To retain their entitlement, her partner would need to make his hours up to 24, or one of them work 16 hours per week and the other work 8. A combination of both working 12 hours would not meet the guidelines.

 

Client I

The client has serious health problems and is in receipt of the highest rates of DLA.  She and her partner had been paying a debt management company to deal with their debts but the repayments were unsustainable.

On advice, it was made apparent that the client would qualify for a DRO – her debts were below the £15,000 limit, she had no assets and had limited monthly available income.

An application was submitted and approved.  The client is now released from the worry her debts were causing her which was detrimental to her health, as all the debts are written off after a year and no payment needs to be made during this year period creditors cannot pursue the client for payment.

 

Client H

The client was referred by her Housing Officer.  She had extensive rent arrears dating back to when she lived with her ex partner who had not paid the rent, even though he had been given the money.  As the client had fallen behind on her suspended court order, the Council applied for an eviction warrant.

Although the client works she had used various “pay day loan companies” to supplement her income.  As they took their loan repayments out of her account automatically, she was left with insufficient money to get to work and pay her rent.  The client was advised to change her bank account so that her income was secure for her to pay essential bills.  The client was represented at court and the eviction warrant suspended.

 

Client G

The client made contact on referral from her GP surgery as she had fallen behind on payment to her Housing Association.  She had a suspended order and the landlord had applied for an eviction warrant.  The client was not aware she could apply for Housing Benefit – she was in receipt of Maternity Allowance.  After an application for benefit and negotiation with the landlord, the client was successfully represented at court and the eviction warrant suspended.

 

Client F

The client suffers from health problems and has been prone to collapsing for no apparent reason.  The doctors feel she may have some form of epilepsy, but this has yet to be formally diagnosed.

She separated from her partner a little while ago.  She has two dependant children living with her and another who has just left school, as well as a 17 year old friend of the family who left the parental home.  As she only receives JSA and benefits for the two younger children, she has struggled to make ends meet and has fallen behind on a suspended possession order re mortgage arrears.  Her lender applied for an eviction warrant.  Some of the arrears arose as the DWP made an error and ceased payment towards the mortgage.

The client was referred by the Council as they felt that the mortgage rescue scheme might be applicable.  The client was represented at court and the eviction suspended subject to payment from both the client and the DWP plus a payment on the arrears.  The client has also been referred for advice on benefit entitlement. 

 

Client E

The client and her partner were referred by their GP surgery in the spring – he suffers from depression and is at risk of committing suicide.  The clients were both unemployed but actively seeking work.

Both were worried about the risk of losing their house – they had approximately £9,000 mortgage arrears and a large number of non priority creditors.  As the clients were only in receipt of basic benefit and due to their low mortgage payments, only eligible to a small amount of mortgage interest, they were unable to make payment towards their mortgage.  Although the lender was sympathetic to the situation, they issued a possession summons at the end of August.

Fortunately, the client obtained work and she was then in a position to pay the mortgage – an offer was made to the lender to pay the contractual mortgage payment plus an amount to clear the arrears over the rest of the term of the mortgage.  The lender agreed, given the circumstances, to allow the clients to pay less towards their arrears to give the clients more money towards their essential expenditure.  The clients were represented at Court where a suspended possession order was granted – i.e. as long as the clients make payments they will be allowed to stay in their property.  Non priority creditors are accepting token offers. 

 

Client D

The client had separated from her partner, worked part time and claimed Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits for her and her child. She made contact with the project because she had fallen behind on payments for her mortgage and secured loan, and had received a possession summons from her mortgage company. The Client was also in arrears with her Council Tax and non priority creditors.

The client was represented in the County Court and the possession adjourned for a three month period whilst an application for the Mortgage Rescue Scheme (MRS) was made.  This is a government backed scheme where a housing association buys the property and rents it back to the client. Financial statements will be prepared to show the client’s financial situation at the time, and also what it would be if they were to rent the property – i.e. the mortgage was unaffordable, but the rent was within the personal budget.

This involves working with the local District Council who has to assess whether the client is eligible in terms of being in priority need and that the property fits within the financial limits.

Given the value of the property and the outstanding mortgage there was insufficient money to clear in full the secured loan.  However, after negotiation, the loan company wrote off a proportion of the debt and Bolsover District Council also contributed £3,000 from their homelessness prevention fund.

The client was again represented in August in the County Court where a further adjournment was agreed whilst the MRS application continues.  At present the Housing Association has made an offer to purchase the property subject to contract.  Completion is expected within the next month with the client and her son secure in their accommodation.

 

Mr P

 Mr P found himself in difficulties after his mother died.  He has a younger brother and two older sisters who are both estranged from the mother.  He was left in charge of dealing with the funeral and wanted to know what help he may be entitled to.

The first thing he did was to make an application to the Social Fund for a Funeral Payment and because he had recently lost his job while caring for his mother he had not claimed Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).  The situation was explained to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and an appointment was made for him at his local Jobcentre for him to claim JSA. 

A claim was made for him to receive Guardian’s Allowance and HM Revenue & Customs were notified of the change in circumstances relating to Child Benefit and Tax Credits, so that he could receive Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits in his own right as he was now responsible for his brother. 

 

Client C

The client is in her mid 60s and suffers from cancer.  Her husband is in his 70s and has the likely onset of dementia.  When visited late last year the clients had not opened some post for approximately three months and any post that had been opened was in a heap.  The envelopes were all opened amongst which was a court letter saying that a lender had been granted possession of the property (due to mortgage arrears) and the clients had not attended court and made an offer of payment. 

Both clients are in receipt of pension and high rate mobility and high rate care Disability Living Allowance.  Whilst in receipt of Pension Credit this is not at the correct amount. 

The clients have a large number of non priority debts.  Contact was made with the lender who has agreed not to enforce the possession order as long as the clients make payments on a monthly basis (contractual and arrears) and after six payments, the arrears will be capitalised.  The lender also expressed concern about the health of the clients and the conditions in which they were living and offered any help they could give. 

A referral has been made to Framework so that they can give ongoing support, ensure payments are made and take any other action as appropriate.

Contact has been made with the Pension Service.  They were not aware the clients have a mortgage or secured loan and sent out several forms to check receipt of Disability Living Allowance (to qualify for higher rates of benefit) but these have not been returned. A form has been sent about the latter and returned to the Pension Service.

As the constant contact from non priority creditors is causing the clients extreme distress, token offers are being negotiated whilst the benefit issues are sorted.

 

Client B

The client is single and is his late 40s.  He had ceased work due to ill health. As a result of his health condition he receives long term incapacity benefit, Disability Living Allowance high rate mobility and low rate care. The client’s health condition is worsening and ultimately the client expects to use a wheelchair in the longer term.

The client sold his house and moved to the coast. Unfortunately he was sold accommodation that was not suitable for all year use.  This therefore had to be sold (at a loss) and the client returned to this area.  The client then took out a loan and used catalogues and credit cards to refurnish his property as he did not have sufficient monies for all he needed.  In total his debts were in the region of £14,500.

Until the beginning of the year the client had been maintaining payments to creditors but was finding the payments unmanageable, particularly as he was now paying for someone to come and help clean the flat and help him with some personal care needs.

Although the client’s debts were within the limit for a Debt Relief Order, the client was not eligible to apply as he has a small pension payable at retirement age and a car over the value of £1,000 (needed because of his illness).  Bankruptcy forms were completed, the client borrowed the fee from family and he presented his petition for bankruptcy. The official receiver anticipates that given the value of the car, and taking into account the client’s health problems, the client will be able to keep the vehicle. 

 

Client A

Male client lives with his partner and their young baby.  Client’s current situation is that he has an illness/disability which has left a weakness on one side.  As a result of this he is not able to work and is in receipt of Incapacity Benefit with an Income Support top up.  The client also receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – low rate care and low rate mobility.  This is due for renewal.  Whilst his partner was working he had a daily visit from a carer who would prepare him a meal.  His partner is on maternity leave and does not feel able to return to work and leave him, particularly as he would struggle to look after their baby when he is having a “bad day”.

Major issues:

  • Client and partner live in private rented property – they have rent arrears and have been issued with a notice seeking possession.
  • Client owned a property with his former partner, this has been repossessed and there is a mortgage shortfall of approx £30,000 owing.
  • Client has a Council Tax debt and has arrears on his gas and electricity of approx £900.  He also owes money to a number of non priority creditors.
  • Client’s partner also has a number of non priority debts – many of which are with doorstep lenders.  She has been paying £80 per month to a Debt Management Company (only £65 is paid to creditors) but is finding these payments are causing hardship.  At the time of visiting the clients, they had no money until the next payment of Incapacity Benefit was due, 10 days later.

Options, advice and action:

  • Affordable payment arrangement agreed with private landlord who has said they will halt any further possession action.
  • Referral made to Welfare Rights Worker to help with DLA renewal (may be entitled to higher rate) – home visit to be arranged as client virtually housebound, particularly as partner’s car needs tgree tyres.
  • Debt Management Plan cancelled.  Partner to be assisted with a Plan by debt worker – token offers of £1 per month.
  • Client’s only option is to petition for bankruptcy.  To have a “fresh start” would help with his medical condition as the worry of his debts worsens his condition.   As the fee is £450 an application has been submitted to the Severn Trent Trust Fund for possible help.

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