Free Legal advice Main
- Created: Tuesday, 08 February 2011 11:04
Free Legal Advice
About the project...
This project gives people living in Bolsover district access to Chesterfield Law Centre’s specialist free legal services in social welfare law – employment, housing, housing debt (including prevention of homelessness).The service includes representation at court and tribunal as required. In addition to taking referrals from other agencies (for example housing services) the project provides daily access via telephone, text phone and internet based access which enables an initial assessment of the issue to be undertaken. In addition, clients with enquiries about their employment, loss of employment, conditions of work and wages can get specialist employment advice via a dedicated telephone service.Read more ...
Free Legal Advice Contacts
Free Legal Advice Case Studies
Client A is a single woman, in low paid employment.
She had taken out a credit card with Lloyds in 2003, and fallen behind with payment in 2007. She had made an offer at that time which Lloyds refused, and then heard nothing further from them until late 2011.
She was informed that the debt had been sold to a third party, IND Ltd. They gave her 14 days notice of court action, and then issued a claim in the county court. She accepted that the money was owed, but was not happy that she had heard nothing for so long.
The Law Centre identified that because she had received no contact from the creditor for 4 years, they were unable to claim interest for that period. We assisted the client to defend the claim on that basis. This was accepted, and the amount claimed was reduced by roughly £1,500.
We also assisted her to put forward an affordable offer of payment by installments for the admitted debt remaining.
Mr A, an elderly disabled gentleman, contacted the Law Centre as he had a parking ticket which had eventually been passed to bailiffs. Mr A had been tricked into letting the bailiff into his property and paid him around £700.00. The bailiff was perusing Mr A for the remaining debt.
The Law Centre assisted Mr A in making a complaint to the bailiff and Nottinghamshire County Council about the bailiffs conduct and also about the astronomical charges that had been applied to the account.
Eventually after a great deal of correspondence the bailiffs agreed to pay Mr A over half his money back. He received a cheque for £375. The bailiffs disputed overcharging Mr A and insisted that the payment was merely a good will gesture, however the amount repaid was exactly the amount the debt caseworker claimed they had overcharged.
Mr A has now arranged an affordable repayment plan to repay the remainder of his debt, again with the assistance of the Law Centre.
Mr F attended the Law Centre in March 2011. He had non priority debts of £12,000.00. Mr F is in receipt of Employment Support Allowance and had no surplus income available which meant that he was not in a position to pay his creditors. He struggled on attempting to pay when he could, however this meant he fell behind with his rent and gas. The stress of dealing with all these creditors coupled with the large level of debt was making Mr F unwell. He was also risking his gas supply and tenancy.
We advised Mr F that he was eligible for a Debt Relief Order (DRO) to address all his debt problems. We explained the procedure in detail and advised him of all the implications. He confirmed that he wished to go ahead with this as it would protect him from further legal action and freeze his debts for 12 months, after which time they would be cleared.
We explained to Mr F that he would need to address the small amount of rent arrears he had accrued separately. As he would no longer be making sporadic payments to his non priority creditors he would be in a position to do this.
Mr F entered into a DRO in August 2011 and has already managed to clear his rent arrears. His non priority debts are now frozen and will be written off in August 2013.
This has put Mr F in a much better frame of mind and it has also prevented his rent arrears escalating.
Mr and Mrs S
Mr and Mrs S approached the Law Centre as they were facing being evicted from their property due to being unable to pay their Mortgage. Mr S had been made redundant and the family were struggling, as the only income they were receiving was a joint claim for Jobseekers Allowance, Child Tax Credits and Child Benefit. The mortgage was in arrears of approximately £3,000 and Mr and Mrs S had not been able to pay for some time. The Mortgage Company had obtained a possession order and was now looking to enforce this by evicting the family.
Mr and Mrs S were advised about their options and felt they would be eligible for a shared equity loan as part of the Mortgage Rescue Scheme. This would not only allow them to remain in the property but would also ensure that, going forward, they were in a much better financial position and would no longer be exposed to the threat of repossession.
An application was made to Mansfield County Court to suspend the warrant of eviction, on the basis that a shared equity loan Mortgage Rescue was being applied for. Mr and Mrs S were represented at the court hearing and the court agreed to suspend the warrant whilst the Mortgage Rescue application was going through. Mr and Mrs S’s mortgage company and their secured loan company were contacted to find out the amounts required to redeem both the mortgage and secured loan.
The Mortgage Rescue shared equity loan was recently approved and the couple used the funds to discharge their secured loan in full, pay off the arrears on their mortgage and substantially reduce the capital element owed on their mortgage.
They no longer have the secured loan to pay, they pay a substantially reduced mortgage and they are only paying interest on the shared equity loan. On top of the improvement in their outgoings, with the reduction in stress Mr S has been able to focus on finding employment, which he has now successfully done.
The couple are now financially better off, have no danger of being repossessed and have an improved quality of life.
Mrs W was referred to us by Framework. She had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing treatment to fight this shortly before seeing us. She had a number of priority and non priority debts which she could not afford to pay.
She had reduced her hours as she did not feel well enough to cope with the demands of a full time job as well as fight the cancer. This meant that she had insufficient income to maintain payments to creditors. Some of her creditors had taken court action already and bailiffs were instructed to collect these debts.
Our client was particularly vulnerable due to her fragile health and we took action to ensure that her health problems were not exacerbated by the pressures of dealing with bailiffs and other creditors.
We advised Mrs W that she was eligible to apply to the Insolvency Service for a Debt Relief Order which would protect her from bailiffs and other enforcement action for a period of 12 months. We further informed her that after this 12 month period all her debts would be written off.
Mrs W attended our offices on 7 March 2011 and we completed the Debt Relief Order Application on her behalf. The application was approved by The Insolvency Service on 16 March 2011 and she is now fully protected by this insolvency procedure.
As all her debts are included in this order she is financially much better off and more importantly she has peace of mind, knowing that all her debts have been addressed.
Mr and Mrs D
Mr and Mrs D were referred to us by Bolsover District Council as they had a large amount of arrears in relation to their mortgage and secured loan. Their mortgage company had taken possession proceedings and there was a hearing scheduled for 13 December 2010.
Dan Staniland (Debt Adviser) saw Mr D initially and discussed the family income situation in great detail. The position was not good. Mr D had just left work to care for his wife full time. The couple had made a claim for Carers Allowance and Disability Allowance, however the claims had not been processed and the only income the couple were receiving was Income Support, Child Tax Credits and Child Benefit.
Dan advised Mr D that unless he could pay his current monthly installment and an additional contribution towards the arrears a possession order would be made. Mr D was resigned to the fact that they could not afford to keep the house. Due to the large amount of negative equity in the property the couple were also not eligible for Mortgage Rescue.
The client was advised that he should go back to the Council and make a homeless application. The situation was made even more difficult by the fact the couple have a disabled child and moving from the area and changing schools could be disruptive.
The Council showed the couple some properties that were felt unsuitable, however they found a private rented property but they could not afford the bond or the first months rent. We advised the couple about the Council’s paper bond scheme and spoke to the Council on the couple’s behalf about this. Unfortunately the landlord wouldn’t accept a paper bond.
With the family looking like they were to be made homeless we advised them about making a community care grant and a crisis loan application. They got these approved and had enough for the first months rent in advance. We then negotiated with the landlord to allow the couple to pay £50 per month for their bond so that they could move into the property before they were evicted.
We have also made an application to a charity for a grant of £250.00 which is yet to be approved, to assist the couple further.
The couple are now living happily in their new property, receiving full housing benefit and paying their additional £50 contribution. Long-term they are considering bankruptcy to address their debts as a whole and our adviser has provided them with full advice about this.
The family report that their overall sense of well being is greatly improved and now can manage their own affairs and finances.
Mrs K attended an outreach session in July 2010. She had a number of priority and non priority debts. The constant battle with creditors and feeling of helplessness about her situation was affecting her health and she had been signed off work.
Her problems had begun a year earlier when she had separated from her husband. They had not been able to maintain mortgage payments on their property and this was subsequently repossessed. When the property was sold there was a shortfall of £65,000 that neither Mrs K nor her estranged husband could pay. On top of this she had loans and credit card debts which totalled a further £22,000.
Mrs K’s attempts to pay some of her debts had meant that she had fallen behind with the rent on her current property.
Dan Staniland (Debt Adviser) analysed Mrs K’s financial position at their first meeting and advised her that as she had no assets and was in receipt of a low income she should make an application for bankruptcy as this would clear the massive non priority debts and leave her in a position to concentrate on her rent and other priority payments. Dan advised her in detail about the bankruptcy process, the implications for the client and the costs and timescales.
Dan had a further appointment with Mrs K in September to assist her in completing her bankruptcy application and to contact County Court to make an appointment on her behalf.
In the meantime Mrs K has cleared her rent arrears and has managed to go back to work as she is no longer feeling the burden of the massive debt she had.
Mrs K is to be made bankrupt on 8 October 2010. Dan feels that the order will be made and there will be no restrictions placed on Mrs K that will have a negative affect on her day to day living.
Mr and Miss WB
These two clients were referred to us from Action for Children. They were in arrears with their private landlord and owed more than two months rent. As a result there was a possession hearing held at County Court. We attended the hearing and represented the clients with the intention of making a proposal to the landlord. The landlord refused proposals made and as the possession proceedings were under Ground 8, a mandatory ground, the court had no discretion to suspend.
As a result a possession order was made. The clients had the implications of this explained to them in detail. As they were both in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance the possibility of finding alternative accommodation did not look good, particularly as a homeless application was not likely to be successful as they had taken on this tenancy knowing they couldn’t afford it, meaning they were intentionally homeless.
Enquiries were made as to the couple’s employment background and the Law Centre established that the gentleman may be eligible for assistance from a trade charity, Hospitality Action. The charity was contacted and eventually they agreed to pay £400 towards a bond on a new property, in the same area the couple were previously living.
The tenancy agreement was signed on 30 July 2010 and the couple are now living in their new property.
Free Legal Advice Outputs
|People benefiting from debt management advice and guidence||40||133||120||50||343|
People accessing volunteering opportunities
|Bolsover residents benefiting from the telephone advice line||69||248||280||117||714|
Free Legal Advice Archive
|2011/12 Year End|
The service continues to deliver outcomes for clients in Bolsover but the project is now drawing to an end with WNF ceasing in June 2012. This project was originally set up to be sustainable post WNF pump priming with funding through the Legal Services Commission (LSC). Reductions to LSC funding, particularly for employment and debt, will mean that the current outreach provision in Bolsover will be reduced from April 2012. Bolsover and Shirebrook outreach will continue as they are more active and established bases, however, South Normanton and Creswell will close.
|2011/12 Quarter 3|
The service continues to deliver outcomes for clients, however, the outputs this quarter for the number of people using the telephone advice line was lower than expected. The project manager has reported that, overall, demand for services during December was significantly reduced in line with other advice agencies. It is intended that delivery plans continue as planned over the coming quarter and volunteers have been recruited and trained to continue to provide front end of services.
|2011/12 Quarter 2|
Delivery of legal services continues for Bolsover district residents and the Law Centre has been working closely with a number of other advice agencies over the last quarter. In particular, improved pathways on more complex housing debt and homelessness prevention cases.
|2011/12 Quarter 1|
|Specialist legal services have continued to be delivered this quarter, exceeding this quarter’s target. However, performance on employment enquiries is below target, this has been atributed to bank holidays during April/May but will be need to be monitored as targets for this output were reduced this year to bring in line with more realistic outcomes. The project has also reported that additional activities around volunteering and training have been undertaken in Quarter 1 and they continue to have one volunteer who is undertaking approximately eight hours a week activity at the Law Centre in addition to attending training events. In addition, a new course (30 hours guided learning) for newly recruited volunteers / assessors based in other advice agencies has been delivered and of these new learners, two are volunteers living within Bolsover district.
Case studies are to be produced to highlight the potential impact of the loss of legal aid. It is intended that a document will be submitted as evidence to the House of Commons committee currently debating the Justice Bill to highlight the impact of proposed legal aid cuts.
2010/11 Year End
Outputs in 2010/11 were down against target. In the main, this is due to an underperformance in outputs in 2009/10 which were subsequently added onto this year’s targets so that lifetime targets remained the same. Following a recent review of outputs, it is unlikely that the target for the number of clients using the telephone advice line will be achieved over the duration of the project. The telephone advice line was a new service, introduced specifically within Bolsover district to address employment issues of people in work, or at risk of losing their jobs. It is now envisaged that approximately 280 per year will use the telephone service.
A review of outreach work has recently been undertaken and it has been decided to continue with the four outreach bases in the district. Stronger links with the Bolsover Financial Inclusion Project are also being forged.
|2010/11 Quarter 3|
|Progress against output targets has been down against profile again this quarter although the number of clients using the telephone advice line is starting to show an increase (86 this quarter against 43 last quarter). The project is currently undergoing a review which is expected to be completed at the end of March 2011. This will involve discussions with partners and main referral agencies, reviewing the work undertaken and reviewing the effectiveness of the outreach provision.
The project has reported that there is likely to be a substantial reduction in legal services available in the future. The Government’s green paper on the future of Legal Aid, if accepted, means that by 2013 it is likely that Legal Aid will not be available for people with problems around debt, employment (apart from discrimination) welfare benefit and most housing problems. As the sustainability of this service in Bolsover was dependent on income generated through the Legal Services Commission, partners should be aware that this potential change in Government policy could have serious implications on the longevity of the Free Legal Advice service currently available to Bolsover residents.
|2010/11 Quarter 2|
|Progress against output targets has been down against profile again this quarter so a review of the services is scheduled to take place in January 2011. The project manager has reported that targets on opening cases through the Employment Advice service are just about being reached but overall the number of clients using the service is down against profile. Similarly the number of people accessing legal advice is lower than anticipated. During Quarter 3, the project has reported that the focus will be to encourage take up of services in Creswell and South Normanton.|
|2010/11 Quarter 1|
Client referrals to the outreach service, and the number of people using the employment telephone helpline, have both been lower than anticipated.
As reported last quarter, the following areas give cause for concern but are being addressed: