Citizens Advice Edinburgh helps thousands of local residents solve big and small problems that affect their lives. Some of our clients face complicated issues that require several sessions with a specialist adviser to get resolved. But complicated issues are far from being the most common ones. In fact, many of our clients need help with filling in paperwork to claim benefits, or want to know what their rights are when it comes to working conditions, or simply need some support and reassurance to feel confident that their debt problem can be solved.
Although we are proud to achieve large financial gains for many of our clients, the majority of the people accessing support from Citizens Advice Edinburgh services receive help with issues that can be resolved with a single advice session. Many of our clients go on to resolve problems on their own, having been empowered with the right information. Whether the financial gain for our clients is big or small, or even if all we can claim to do is offered advice and boosted a client’s confidence, we have made a difference to the lives of many individuals and families.
Three case studies have been selected from the pool of clients who recently used our advice services in one of our Edinburgh bureaux or outreach locations, in order to highlight what type of problems we can offer help with.
Paul*, 29, works full time on minimum wage. He visited his local Citizens Advice Edinburgh Bureau to ask for advice, as his wife recently moved in with him from abroad, along with their two children. Paul asked for information regarding what benefits they may be entitled to claim.
Our generalist advisor was able to run a Benefit Check based on Paul’s circumstances as he had provided all the necessary documentation. The benefit checks showed that Paul may be entitled to claim over £10,000 a year in Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits. Paul was given the relevant information and decided to complete the relevant applications himself, with the option of coming back to the Bureau at a later date if further help was needed.
Sandra has been working part time for the same employer for many years, as well as carrying out some self-employed work. She had been on maternity leave for a year, and regularly received Maternity Allowance for the first 9 months of her leave.
Since she got back to work, she has been trying to get a copy of her P60 for the tax year 2015-2016. Instead, she was mistakenly issued with a P45 and with a new payroll number by her employer. Her lack of P60 is now causing problems in her application for British Citizenship for her young child.
Sandra visited her local Citizens Advice Edinburgh Bureau for advice on her options. One of our trained volunteer advisers was able to confirm that her employment did not terminate while she was on maternity leave, and that issuing a P45 was indeed a mistake. On the top of that, our advisor reassured her she was legally entitled to receive a P60, and that HMRC regulations stated a replacement P60 can be issued.
Our advisor drafted a letter formally requesting a replacement P60 and pointing out the serious implications for her of not having this document to which she is entitled, which will allow Sandra to continue seeking British Citizenship for her child.
Rachael and Michael are currently living with friends and are expecting a baby, with Rachael being in the 8th month of her pregnancy. They will have to find their own place by the time the baby is born, and attended a drop-in session at their local Citizens Advice Bureau to discuss their housing options. They told their adviser that, although they are registered on City of Edinburgh Council’s Edindex and have bid for some properties, they haven’t so far been successful in finding suitable accommodation.
Their adviser confirmed their Edindex application was completed and reflected their full circumstances, and suggested the possibility of looking at the private sector in addition to Edindex. The adviser gave advice on where to find some properties listed, both online and on local papers. Finally, Rachael and Michael have also been booked in for a benefit check to see what they are entitled to and ensure they are maximising their potential income.
*The names of clients have been altered to preserve confidentiality.
Are you affected by any of the issues in this blog, or need advice in Edinburgh? Click here to find your nearest Bureau for free, independent advice.
Emanuele De Vito
Social Policy Assistant