Loan sharks could cash in following caps on payday lending, according to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
Caps limiting the interest rate and fees instated by so-called payday lenders have been introduced by the Financial Conduct Authority in a bid to protect people struggling with debt.
As of Friday, January 2, companies such as Wonga – who previously had annual interest rates higher than 5,000 per cent – must comply with regulations that will see interest and fees capped at 0.8 per cent per day.
Under the new rules, the total cost of a loan will be limited to 100 per cent of the original sum and default fees will be capped at £15.
While the move has been welcomed by the Darlington Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), the organisation has warned the changes may cause more vulnerable people to fall prey to loan sharks.
Darlington CAB’s Dawn Gill expressed fears that loan sharks could take advantage of those now unable to access as much money as they need.
“Caps are a good thing but clients will still want money from somewhere – they’re being protected from high interest rates but companies may not lend as much.
“They may not be able to get as much as they were expecting or anything at all.
“We haven’t seen it happen yet but the changes are still new and it’s a worry.”
Ms Gill urged payday lenders to work with CABs in order to help their clients manage their finances.
“The ideal situation would be for payday lenders to refer their clients to us before they take out a loan at all and let us help them to maximise and manage their income.
“I’d advise people to come to us and let us help them find ways to manage.
“We can help with benefits, cutting energy bills or working out incomings and outgoings and priorities.
“There are a lot of people prioritising paying back intimidating people who knocked at their door with money rather than paying their rent or council tax but they could end up losing their home.”
To anonymously report a loan shark, contact the Illegal Money Lending Team by emailing email@example.com
or calling 0300-555-2222.
Source – Northern Echo, 20 Jan 2015
This articlewas written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for The Guardian on Thursday 18th December 2014
Poverty charities and councils have warned that the government’s refusal to guarantee funding for local welfare schemes will force low income families in crisis to turn to food banks and loan sharks.
The government announced in January that it would no longer provide £180m central funding for local welfare assistance schemes operated by English local authorities after April 2015, triggering a cross-party revolt by Conservative MPs and council leaders, Labour councils and charities.
It is believed that the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, attempted to secure £70m for local welfare to announce in Thursday’s local government finance settlement, but was blocked by the chancellor, George Osborne.
The local government minister Kris Hopkins told the Commons on Thursday that there would be no additional funding for local welfare, although he encouraged councils to make further formal representations, raising faint hopes that the government may revisit the decision in February.
Local welfare provision offers emergency help for a range of vulnerable people who fall into unexpected crisis, including women fleeing domestic violence, homeless people, pregnant mothers, care leavers, pensioners and people suffering from chronic physical and mental health problems.
Some in Whitehall are understood to be concerned that cutting local welfare will provide additional fuel to critics who argue the government does not care about poverty. A cross-party report on food banks this month urged the government to protect local welfare assistance, saying food bank referrals would increase if it was not reinstated.
Hopkins said that although there would be no new funds for local welfare, ministers would outline a notional figure of £130m in the overall grant allocations to councils – a cut of £50m – although this would not be ring-fenced, meaning councils can spend it on other services.
Cllr Andy Hull, Labour-run Islington council’s executive member for finance, called the decision not to provide local welfare funding “an early Christmas present from the government for loan sharks and payday lenders.”
He added: “This safety net supports families to stay together, helps people sustain their tenancies and keeps kids out of care. It is a lifeline, not a luxury. Now, thanks to the government, it lies in shreds.”
The Local Government Association said almost three-quarters of local authorities will abandon or scale back local welfare schemes unless they receive government funding. Two county councils, Nottinghamshire and Oxfordshire, have already closed their schemes.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:
“In the long-run tax payers will foot a higher bill if low-income families can’t stop a one-off, unforeseen expense from becoming a full-blown crisis – and the human cost will be high. For mothers leaving violent partners or youngsters moving on from homelessness or care, the schemes can make the difference between managing or not.”
Helen Middleton of the Furniture Reuse Network, whose member charities work closely with councils on helping low-income families, said the decision showed the government had “no real understanding of the levels of poverty in this country”.
Homelessness charity Centrepoint said young homeless people used local welfare schemes as a vital safety net:
“It’s completely unacceptable that young people who have fought to turn their lives around after facing homelessness are once again left to sleep on floors for lack of something as basic as a bed.
“Ministers must look carefully at responses from councils to this announcement and consider whether their proposal really reflects the level of poverty in many of our communities.”
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said:
“The government’s decision to reduce annual funding from £172m to £130m will make it harder for councils to support vulnerable families facing a crisis. The requirement that town halls fund their schemes from within existing budgets may create a postcode lottery for many families in poverty.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 18 Dec 2014
Funerals are becoming so expensive people are burying their dead in the back garden says South Shields’ MP.
Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck claims people are holding “do it yourself” funerals with rising costs putting even a basic service out of many families’ reach.
She made the announcement at the House of Commons this afternoon as she proposed a bill calling for a review of funeral costs and for providers to offer an affordable, simple service.
Mrs Lewell-Buck told MPs:
“People are also turning to alternatives to the traditional funeral. Some are holding do-it-yourself funerals, and even having to bury relatives in their back garden. A number of companies are offering cut-price funerals, including “direct” cremations that have no formal service attached to them.
“Increasingly, bereaved individuals who simply cannot afford a formal service are faced with having to opt for a public health funeral, or what used to be referred to as a pauper’s funeral.”
Research published by Royal London shows that one in five households struggle to afford the cost of a basic funeral. In order to make up the shortfall many take on credit card debt, sell possessions or even turn to payday lenders. The report also shows that funeral costs are rising, with the average service now costing £3,551.
Mrs Lewell-Buck said:
“Funeral poverty is on the rise in Britain, as costs go up while household budgets continue to be stretched. The last thing a bereaved person needs is money worries, but increasingly people are getting in to debt to afford a decent send-off for those they care about.
“People understandably don’t like to talk about these issues, and struggling to pay for a funeral can be an isolating and upsetting experience. That’s why politicians need to speak up about this issue, and why I hope MPs will support my call for a funeral poverty bill.”
> Well, that’s unrestrained capitalism for you. Screw every penny out of you when you’re alive, and death is just another money-making opportunity.
Source – Shields Gazette, 09 Dec 2014
This article was written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 26th November 2014
A Conservative minister has joined growing Tory opposition to the government’s proposals to slash funding for local welfare assistance, which provides emergency help to Britain’s poorest citizens.
Amber Rudd, the minister for climate change, said she had been “fighting” to persuade the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to reinstate the £180m a year funding for local authority welfare schemes.
Local welfare assistance, which replaced the old nationally run social fund 18 months ago, provides “safety net” support for low-income families tipped into sudden crisis as a result of homelessness, domestic violence, flooding, illness or sudden financial setback.
Rudd, the MP for Hastings, and a former Treasury whip, is the most senior Tory politician to demand the government reverse plans to scrap central funding for local welfare schemes from this April.
She told BBC Radio Sussex: “We all locally who care about the most vulnerable in society are fighting very strongly to make sure the government reconsiders.”
Separately, Tory-run Essex county council has written to ministers to warn the proposed cut would leave vulnerable people without help and at the mercy of loan sharks.
The council’s leader, David Finch, said:
“I want ministers in London to think again and keep funding in place because the consequences of families going through crisis for longer will be far more expensive.”
Other senior Tories who oppose the scrapping of local welfare funding include: Keith Glazier, the leader of East Sussex county council; David Hodge, the leader of Surrey county council; Sir Merrick Cockell, a former leader of the Local Government Association (LGA); and Louise Goldsmith, the leader of West Sussex county council, who has call the plans as “a cut too far”.
A decision on the future of local welfare funding is expected in December alongside the local government funding settlement.
Rudd accused the DWP and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) of trying to offload accountability for local welfare on to each other, and promised to “hold ministers’ feet to the fire so that somebody takes responsibility for it”.
Although Rudd said she believed that local government needed to make cuts, it was “too hard” on councils to be expected to run local welfare assistance schemes without separate DWP funding. Councils have experienced an average 37% cut in budgets over the course of this parliament, with more financial pain to come.
The government insists councils can continue to fund local welfare from within their central grant. But the LGA has warned that withdrawal of funding will mean one in six councils will be forced to decommission their schemes, leaving tens of thousands of families without state help.
In a joint letter to ministers with the charities Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the Children’s Society and Crisis, the LGA says that scrapping local welfare “will have an acute impact on vulnerable residents and their children and will mean they have nowhere to turn in their time of greatest need”.
Naomi Ridley of Hastings Furniture Service, a charity which has worked closely with other Sussex charities to win cross-party support to save local welfare funding, praised Rudd’s intervention:
“We enthusiastically welcome the support of a government minister for the campaign, and hope she can convince her colleagues that abolishing the fund is a terrible, short-sighted mistake with vicious consequences.”
Charities which work with families in poverty have also stepped up pressure on ministers to protect local welfare funding. The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, was told during an official visit to a charity “furniture bank” in Ipswich last week that his proposals would penalise the most vulnerable members of society.
> Like his decisions so far haven’t ?
The Furniture Re-Use Network whose 250 members have seen requests for help for secondhand goods, such as beds and fridges, rocket during the past 18 months, said councils were failing to keep pace with an explosion in poverty. It accused ministers of ”having no idea of the scale of unrecorded need of in-crisis households.”
The DWP announced in January that it would stop funding local welfare assistance after 2015, despite promising during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act in 2012 that it would conduct a review of the policy before making a decision.
After being threatened with court action over this decision by Islington council and CPAG, however, the government promised in September to reconsider its position and issued a consultation.
The consultation, which closed on Friday, has been criticised because none of the three choices offered to consultees involve continued funding. The housing charity Shelter called it “a cheap pavement shuffle cup trick”.
The Guardian’s investigation of the scheme in April found widespread chaos: in many councils local welfare was underspent, under-advertised and underused. Record numbers of families needing help were turned away and “pushed into the arms of payday lenders and loan sharks”.
A government spokesperson said:
“The changes made to funding of local welfare provision were never about abolishing support and it’s a total misrepresentation to suggest they were.
“This government has given councils more control because they understand
best their local area’s needs – this is in contrast to the previous
centralised grant system which was inflexible and poorly targeted.
“We have completed a consultation on how funding should be provided for 2015/16 and will publish the results shortly.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 26 Nov 2014
Changes to the payday loans market could drive desperate consumers straight into the arms of loan sharks, a North-East academic has warned.
A cap on the amount that payday lenders can charge customers has been announced by the Financial Conduct Authority.
But Professor Mark Davies, of Teesside University’s school of social sciences, business and law, fears the changes will enable loan sharks to strengthen their positions in local communities.
Prof Davies, who has carried out extensive research into the payday loans market and the needs of borrowers, believes the new measures are a positive move, but will not help all borrowers.
“While this is definitely an improvement from a borrower’s perspective, there are a number of remaining issues,” he said.
“In particular, it has been speculated that many payday lenders will leave the market to set up elsewhere or change their business model.
“If legitimate payday lenders leave the industry, this will leave less choice to borrowers, with the possibility of loan sharks strengthening their positions in local communities.”
The changes by the FCA will see payday loan rates capped at 0.8 per cent per day of the amount borrowed. In total, no one will have to pay back more than twice what they borrowed, and there will be a £15 cap on default charges.
“A person in financial desperation, as many of these people are, cannot simply resist a loan,” he said.
“What is needed is a mechanism for identifying and targeting these people at much earlier points, before the pain of irreversible debt mounts up.”
Professor Davies is currently leading a research project to find out more about the types of consumers who consider payday loans and the consequences it has on their lives.
He has gathered detailed accounts from a number of third sector organisations and has held focus groups with people who have taken out payday loans.
“The new regulations are welcome but they will not help all borrowers,” he said. “Some will return to loan sharks.
A drive to keep people in Jarrow out of the hands of loan sharks and payday lenders has been launched – thanks to a £20,000 Lotto grant.
The cash will help raise awareness of the town’s existing advice drop-in centre at Jarrow’s Grange Road Baptist Church.
The church currently plays host to The Bridges – Your Community Bank, the trading name of South Tyneside Credit Union.
The grant, from Big Local, part of the Big Lottery Fund, will help increase sessions at the church and encourage better money management in central Jarrow.
The two-year programme will also help people looking to escape the cycle of sky-high interest rate loans.
One key element will be the creation of four savings clubs in schools, nurseries and children’s centres, to teach youngsters about saving.
Last year the bank issued 989 loans, payable back within a year, and typically for between £800 and £1,000, and totalling around £845,800, at interest rates from 5.1 per cent APR and 43.8 per cent – far lower than any payday lender.
But bosses believe the partnership has the potential to encourage many more people to approach them for safe, well-planned and responsible financial support, and for loans which reflects their ability to repay.
Janette Wynn, manager of Bridges – Your Community Bank, said:
“This partnership is an important development in helping people to get away from using either payday lenders, or doorstep lenders.
“It will raise awareness to residents that credit unions are another alternative source of borrowing instead of using payday loans and door step lenders.
“It will help adults by offering loans at far lower interest rates than they may otherwise pay, and it will also encourage them towards more responsible borrowing.”
Anne Corrigan, project co-ordinator for Big Local in Central Jarrow, added:
“This will help people to access affordable loans, reducing the numbers reliant on pay day loans and loan sharks and ultimately improving the economic stability of the community.”
Loans are typically used for home improvements, holidays, Christmas expenses, buying a car, and debt consolidation.
More information is available from Bridges – Your Community Bank on 0191 454 7677 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or from Anne Corrigan on 0191 428 1144 or by emailing email@example.com,uk
Source – Shields Gazette, 31 Oct 2014
In a move that will bring new hope to struggling payday lenders, the DWP have extended the waiting days for employment and support allowance (ESA) and jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) from 3 days to 7 days from today.
The new rules mean that claimants applying for ESA or JSA will not be entitled for any payments during the first 7 days that they would otherwise be eligible for benefits.
Claimants will not be affected if they have made a previous claim for ESA or JSA in the preceding three months, however, as they will be considered to have already served their waiting days. ESA claimants will also not be affected if they have claimed statutory sick pay immediately before claiming ESA.
Terminally ill claimants are exempt from serving waiting days.
The move has brought condemnation from trade unions and charities, but the chancellor, George Osborne, argues that: “Those first seven days should be spent looking for work and not looking to sign on.”
Last month Wonga was forced by the Financial Conduct Authority to write off £220 million in loans interest and charges to people who should never have been given loans in the first place. There have been calls for other payday lenders to suffer similar penalties.
But the decision by the Coalition to extend the waiting period for ESA and JSA to seven days means that there is likely to be an upsurge in applications for short-term loans by people with no other resources to fall back on.
Given that waiting times for a first payment of Universal Credit (UC) are likely to be around 6 weeks – and up to six months for people whose earnings were too high, according to new government proposals – and bearing in mind that UC also includes a housing costs element, the future for payday lenders is beginning to look rosy again.
Source – Benefits & Work, 27 Oct 2014
Highly controversial Zero hours contracts are forcing Scottish workers to turn to food banks and payday lenders, according to a new report from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).
The report, ‘Working at the Edge‘, found that the inappropriate use of zero hours contracts by unscrupulous employers is exploiting workers and leaving them with “no hours, no pay and no chance”.
Some employers are now using zero hours for the majority of their staff, the report says, with women representing over half of those workers trapped on the controversial contracts. Young people and pensioners are also greatly affected.
Workers are frequently denied equal and fair working rights routinely awarded to part-time and full-time staff. The report warns that some employers are using zero-hours as a tool to easily sack staff.
CAS also warns that the misuse of zero hours by some employers is leading to some workers facing bankruptcy and prosecution over unpaid debts.
The report includes a case study of a CAS client on zero hours who only had three days work in a month and was forced to turn to a food bank to feed themselves. The client received a court summons after they found themselves £1,000 into arrears as a direct result of not being given enough hours work to pay debts.
Another case tells the story of a waitress on zero hours who was facing possible bankruptcy, after stacking up a debt of nearly £5,000 to payday lenders, while they waited for their employer to give them more hours work.
CAS policy manager Keith Dryburgh said:
“Zero hours contracts (ZHCs) are meant to provide flexibility for employers and workers alike. They are not suitable for everyone, but they can be a useful option for some people — as long as the system is applied fairly.
“However, we see growing evidence that the system is in fact being abused by some employers, who are frankly misusing it to exploit their workers.
“It seems that the flexibility in the system often lies with the employer, not with the worker. And too often workers are left with no hours, no pay, no security and no chance.
“There are 1.4 million people on ZHCs across the UK. They tend to be aged under 25 or over 65. Over half of them are women, and the areas they work in are those like catering, tourism, food and care.
“In highlighting these cases we hope to persuade employers that they should do right by their staff, and also to open a dialogue with government about how to improve the system to make sure this kind of exploitation doesn’t occur.
“We make a number of recommendations in the report, and we want to engage with ministers, unions and others to discuss ways to ensure a fair deal for all workers.
“We also want to get the message to any worker who is on a zero hours contract. You have rights, and we can help you to stand up for them.
“If you are unhappy with your contract or unsure of your rights, contact your local CAB and we will help you with free confidential advice.
“Nobody in 2014 should be in a position where they are working but don’t have the security of an actual income.”
The Scottish Government has previously called on the UK Government to crack down on the use of inappropriate zero hours contracts, by ensuring that workers receive compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice.
Commenting on the report from Citizens Advice Scotland, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said:
“While the UK government is encouraging the use of zero hours contracts, the Scottish Government has been looking at options available to tackle the issue within its current limited powers.
“As employment policy is reserved to Westminster, this is yet another example of how we can do things differently, and better, with independence.
“Zero hours contracts can be beneficial for some but they are not appropriate for everyone – and are more likely to be offered to women, young people and pensioners. And the growth in the inappropriate use of these contracts is clearly cause for real concern.
“The fact that anyone is forced to rely on food banks in a wealthy country like Scotland is nothing less than a scandal – but that people in employment are now struggling to afford the basics like food is simply unbelievable.
“After a Yes vote we can use the powers of independence to make sure that more people feel the benefits of Scotland’s wealth.
“The establishment of a Fair Work Commission and a commitment to raise the minimum wage at least in line with inflation will help us take action on low pay.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 23 July 2014
Labour MPs have increased the pressure on payday lenders Wonga to quit their Newcastle United shirt sponsorship deal – but the company say they are committed to the club.
The finance firm’s new chairman Andy Haste announced on Monday he would be reviewing the company’s advertising and marketing “to make sure that we don’t leave any impression that we are trying to influence or target the very young”.
But with thousands of junior Magpies fans wearing Wonga-sponsored shirts, some MPs said they hope he will end to Wonga’s partnership with NUFC.
A spokesman for Wonga said that its chairman had been asked a comment about Wonga’s marketing in general in the wake of the company’s decision to ditch its “puppet” advertising campaign, and had made no specific remarks regarding Newcastle United.
“We continue to be proud sponsors of Newcastle United FC,” she said. “Our new chairman, Andy Haste, was commenting on our general marketing approach – he did not make any direct comment on our sponsorship of the club.”
Gateshead Mp Ian Mearns said: “If Wonga express an interest in disassociating themselves because of a duty to young fans in their new business model then I’d hope Mike Ashley would let them out of their contract and find a new sponsor.
“But it will depend on what Wonga are contractually obliged to do in terms of the longevity of their sponsorship deal.
“It might be very difficult to extricate themselves from it.”
Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah said the possibility of Wonga continuing as sponsor would be in direct contradiction of its vow not to target children.
She said: “The idea that Wonga is not targeting children when its logo is emblazoned across toddlers throughout Tyneside would be laughable were it not so serious,” she said.
“I look forward to a day when Newcastle United’s sponsors are not a source of shame for so many fans, until then I will not be attending matches at the stadium.”
One the issue of the ground re-naming, MPs refused to be drawn.
Wonga paid club owner Mike Ashley to “return” the ground’s name to St James’ Park in October 2012 after he had named it the Sports Direct Arena after his sports shop empire.
But Ms Onwurah refused to be grateful for the move.
She said: “I am not grateful to Wonga for retaining the name St James Park. Mike Ashley should never have changed it to Sports Direct in the first place.”
However, Mr Mearns welcomed the new Wonga chairman’s admission that in the past it has made “some serious mistakes” and his desire for the company to operate in a “responsible and transparent manner.”
“I very much welcomed the comments from Wonga and I think some of that comes from a realisation by them that hopefully there will be much more stringent regulation from the FCA,” he said. “They’re waking up and smelling the coffee and taking a realistic attitude.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 15 July 2014
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has called on the Government to cut business rates to give South Shields’ struggling shops a chance to survive.
The plight of her constituency’s beleaguered shopping centre was raised in Parliament last night in an adjournment debate with High Street minister Brandon Lewis.
The move came amid concern for the retail viability of the town centre, following the recent departure of such big-name outlets as Marks & Spencer and Mothercare.
To prepare for the debate, Mrs Lewell-Buck paid a fact-finding visit to King Street to find out what the main concerns of traders are.
She said that the clear message was an alarming decline in both income and customer numbers in the last two years – and the high cost of business rates.
She said: “Shops in King Street have reported that footfall is down in the last two or three years, at the same time as incomes are being squeezed and families have less money to spend.”
Last night, Ms Lewell-Buck called on the minister to take more action to cut business rates.
“One in 10 businesses now spends more on business rates than rent. Rates have risen by an average of £1,500 under the coalition.
“The Government also delayed the revaluation of business rates, which many firms have said means business owners in smaller towns are paying unfairly high levels compared to those in London and the South East.
“The Government relaxed planning rules in a way that has made it easier for betting shops and payday lenders to cluster on high streets, giving shoppers less incentive to visit.”
‘Trade is at its worst for 20 years’
Emma Lewell-Buck’s intervention has been welcomed by the traders she visited, including Lesley-Annz ladies’ fashion shop in the Market Place and Premier Furnishings and Carpets in King Street.
Michael Blake, owner of Premier Furnishings, has revealed he pays a whopping £600 a week in rates – twice as much as he pays in rent.
And in the last four years he has seen profits fall from up to £12,000 a week to between £700 to £2,000 a week.
He said: “I do appreciate the fact that she made the effort to come and see us and I hope this achieves something.
“We’re really suffering at the hands of competition from internet shopping, and parking is also a big issue.
“I have people in here who say after 10 minutes that they have to dash – because their car is on a meter. Shoppers can’t relax.”
Lesley Dawson, owner of Lesley-Annz fashions, said: “Just take a look around. It is shocking. There’s no shops. There’s nothing.
“I have been in the trade 20 years and this is the worst I have known it.
“We have lost so much footfall since Wouldhave House and Franchis cafe were demolished. We know there’s a new library to be built on the site, but that’s two years away. That’s a long time.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 27 June 2014