Debt advice

Debt Advice Team

We are a friendly team of trained advisors who help people in financial difficulty with free, confidential and impartial debt advice. We can advise you on a wide range of issues and help hundreds of people every year.

We can help anyone who is:

  • a council tenant
  • affected by the benefit cap
  • at risk of losing tenancy
  • required to receive advice as a condition of a Discretionary Housing Payment award.

How can we help?

We can help you:

  • increase income and reduce outgoings
  • keep important goods and services
  • make an informed decision how to deal with any debts
  • check for and claim benefits you are entitled to
  • understand benefits and challenge decisions

You can refer yourself to the service, or you can be referred by someone supporting you – Debt advice referral form.

Resources

Fee-free basic bank accounts

Loan sharks

Coronavirus-related issues

Resources

We have resources available for you to take yourself through the debt advice process including:

If you would like further information about the Debt Advice Team, you can contact us on 0118 937 2197 or debt.advice@reading.gov.uk.

Fee-free basic bank accounts

These accounts are for people who need to open a new bank account to manage their money, even if you have a poor credit rating. This can be because you don’t have a bank account or because you cannot use your current account for example you keep receiving charges or are overdrawn.

Fee-free basic accounts allow you to:

  • pay in money (wages, welfare benefits, pensions and cheques)
  • set up Direct Debits or standing orders to pay your regular bills
  • use a debit card in shops and online
  • withdraw cash from the bank or cash machines (fee apply to some cash machines)
  • check your account balance at your bank, a cash machine, online and your mobile phone

How to open a fee-free basic bank account

  • You can apply for a fee-free basic bank account in person, over the phone or online.
  • You must clearly ask to open a fee-free basic bank account – if you are not clear you may be assessed for different account and you may be refused.
  • You must take one proof of your identity and you may have to prove your address.

Here are some examples of documents you can use to prove your identity and address:

  • Proof of identity
    • passport
    • driving licence
    • benefit award letter (dated within the last 12 months)
    • HMRC tax notification or assessment letter (dated within the last 12 months)
    • current European Union member state identity card
  • Proof of address
    • utility bills*
    • Council Tax bill issued with the current year 
    • UK bank/credit card statement*
    • tenancy agreement
    • catalogue or mail order statement*
    • UK photocard driving licence
    • motor insurance or home insurance certificate (issued within 12 months)

*dated within the last 3 months

Banks required to offer fee-free basic bank accounts

The nine largest bank account providers are required to offer fee-free basic bank accounts, other banks may offer this service, but are not required to follow the same regulations.

BankAccountOnline/phone
banking
Direct Debits/
standing orders
Withdrawals from UK cash machines (ATMs)**
Barclays
0800 400100
Basic current accountYesYesYes
HSBC
03457 404 404
Basic bank accountYesYesYes
Nationwide
0800 302010
option 3
FlexBasicYesYesNationwide ATMs
*NatWest
0800 881177
Foundation AccountYesYesYes
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)
0345 7242424
Basic AccountYesYesYes
Santander
0800 0686069
Basic current accountYesYesYes (restrictions may apply)
The Co-operative Bank
0345 7212212
CashminderYesYesYes
TSB
0345 9758758
Cash accountYesYesLink or Visa ATMs only
*Halifax
0345 7203040
Basic accountYesYesYes
*Lloyds
0845 300 0000
Basic accountYesYesYes

*You will need to apply for another account and be rejected to be allowed to open the non-fee charging basic bank account.

**A message on the screen will inform you if any charges apply and will offer an option to cancel the transaction.

Loan sharks

A money lender must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to lend money legally. An unauthorised lender does not have the legal right to recover the debt as it is illegal.

You can check if someone you have borrowed money from is registered by visiting http://www.loansmart.org.uk.

If anyone you have borrowed money from threatens you or is violent, contact the police straight away. 

How to spot a loan shark

  • Little or no paperwork to confirm the repayment arrangements or how much you owe.
  • Very high rates of interest charged.
  • You might not be allowed to pay the debt in full.
  • Lends money to lots of people.
  • Threatens violence if you fall behind.
  • Valuable items taken from you as security
  • You can report loan sharks on 0300 555 2222.

Reporting a loan shark

Contact the Illegal Money Lending Team on 0300 555 2222, you do not need to give them your details unless you feel comfortable. They provide specialist support, help and advice for victims of loan sharks. For more information visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk

Universal Credit

Benefit cap

Under occupation reduction (bedroom tax)

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support

Discretionary payments

Winter Watch

Coronavirus-related financial difficulties

If you are in financial difficulty, we are here to help you with appointments happening by phone, emails and post. This page has useful information for you to improve your situation, and we are here to help if you need extra support.

If your income has been affected, check your entitlement to benefits and make claims straight away.

You can refer yourself to the service, or you can be referred by someone supporting you here [Debt advice referral form link]. If your situation is urgent, please contact us on 0118 937 2197 or debt.advice@reading.gov.uk

Information on the financial issues you may have during the coronavirus crisis is available from The Advice Service.

Paying rent

You still need to pay rent as a priority. If you have any issues paying your rent, contact your landlord straight away to make an affordable agreement to repay your arrears.  

You cannot be evicted without a court order, currently the government has suspended new evictions from social or private rented accommodation until 23 August 2020.

If you are being threatened with eviction, or being asked to leave your home by your landlord without a court order, you should remain in your home and immediately contact Reading Borough Councils Housing Service by phone 0118 937 2165 or email housing.advice@reading.gov.uk.

Paying Council Tax

You still need to pay your Council Tax, or it will be difficult to manage in the future. If you are struggling to pay, contact Customer Services on 0118 937 3727 to discuss your options.

If your income has reduced, check to see if you can claim Council Tax Support.

Being paid whilst off work

The government has issued guidance for households with possible coronavirus to stay at home and self-isolate. Contact your employer as soon as you know you are unable to attend work and discuss the arrangements for pay.

For the latest advice regarding the coronavirus emergency visit www.gov.uk

If your employer asks you not to work and you are not self-isolating, you should receive your full pay.

Check with your manager if can receive company sick pay, details will also be in your employment contract. If you cannot get company sick pay, check to see if you are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay.

This is when your employer pays you £94.25 per week whilst you are unable to work for up to 28 weeks. You will be able to receive it from the first day you are unable to work (from 13 March 2020), for more information visit www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay

If you are self-employed you are not eligible to receive Statutory Sick Pay, so if you cannot work due to the government guidance regarding coronavirus you should check your entitlement to benefits and make claims straight away.

Online benefit calculator

If you lose your job

The coronavirus is affecting employment, with some employers asking employees to take unpaid leave and other employers having to lay off a number of their employees.

If you lose your job, it is important you get all the advice available so you can make informed decisions and benefit applications quickly. For advice on employment issues visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk and www.acas.org.uk/advice.

Online benefit calculator