Money advice

If you want to help yourself to maximise your income and manage your bills, all the national organisation have self-help material for you to work through a wide range of common issues. If debt is affecting your housing then contact housing advice.

If you feel that you need some additional support to work through your options, you can contact one of the organisations below.

Reading Borough Council has a Debt Advice Team who can help you to work out the best people to speak to about your situation. They also have resources to help you manage your money including the Debt Advice Handbook that is full of practical advice.

National advice organisations

Self-help – when you are confident to help yourself:

  • Citizens Advice – budgeting, benefits, housing, employment, immigration, debt options and many other topics
  • National Debtline – advice on budgeting, benefits, housing, employment and debt options
  • Money Advice Service – advice on budgeting, benefits, housing, employment and debt options
  • Debt Advice Foundation – advice on budgeting, benefits, and debt options
  • Shelter – advice on budgeting, benefits, housing and debt options

Assisted self-help – when you need a little extra support:

  • PayPlan – budgeting, benefits and debt options
  • StepChange – budgeting, benefits and debt options

Local advice organisations

Self-help – when you are confident to help yourself:

  • RBC Debt Advice Team – debt advice handbook, advice on budgeting, benefits, housing, debt options and template letters

Assisted self-help – when you need a little extra support:

Specialist advice and support with benefits:

  • Welfare Rights – form filling, challenging decisions
  • Communicare – checking entitlement, form filling, challenging decisions

Help with Council Tax

If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax bill help is available on our Help with Council Tax page.

Help with school uniform

If you are struggling with the cost of school uniforms, you might be able to get help from First Days who can provide everyday essentials to families who need them by distributing school uniforms, new baby essentials, travel items, toiletries, safety equipment, furniture, toys and books.

You might be able to find further support through the Reading Services Guide.

Affordable lending

Berkshire Credit Union

Offers accounts to get into the habit of saving whatever you can, and flexible, convenient and affordable loans.

Once you have signed up, you can take out a standard loan three months after joining. Alternatively, you can immediately apply for an affordable child benefit loan.

Berkshire Credit Union website

Help available from the Department for Works and Pensions

Budgeting Loan

If you are receiving one of the following, you can apply for a Budgeting Loan:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit

You can apply for a loan for the following reason:

  • Furniture or household items (e.g. washing machine or other white goods)
  • Clothing or footwear
  • Rent in advance
  • Costs linked to moving to a new house
  • Maintenance, improvements or security for your home
  • Travelling costs within the UK
  • Costs linked to getting a new job
  • Maternity costs
  • Funeral costs
  • Repaying hire purchase loans
  • Repaying loans taken for the above items

The loan is interest free and deductions will be made from your ongoing benefit award. Gov.uk – budgeting help.

Budgeting Advance

If you are receiving Universal Credit, you can apply for a Budgeting Advance to help with emergency household costs if you:

  • Have been getting Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or State Pension Credit for six months or more, unless you need the money to help you start a new job or stay in work.
  • Earned less than £2,600 (£3,600 together for couples) in the past six months.
  • Have paid off any previous Budgeting Advance loans.

The loan is interest free and deductions will be made from your ongoing benefit award. Gov.uk – Universal Credit

Hardship Payment

Universal Credit sanctions reduce the Standard Allowance element of your Universal Credit award, you still receive your other elements (like the Housing Costs Element) but you will receive less Universal Credit.

You can only get a hardship payment if you are:

  • Over 18 years old.
  • Struggling to meet the basic needs of you or a dependent child (including paying rent, food or energy) after making every effort to stop spending money on non-essential things.
  • Unable to get the money from other sources (e.g. other benefits, working more hours or friends/family).
  • Able to show you have done all the work-related activities on your claimant commitment for the last seven days.

You can apply for a Hardship Payment by calling the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644. It is a loan, so you will need to repay it when your sanction is removed. You will also need to reapply every month you need a hardship payment.

Loan sharks

Poster - Be wary of "too goog to be true" loan offers when surfing social media. Call our 24/7 confidential helpline 0300 555 2222.

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 on the Loan Smart website.

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. Stop Loan Sharks website

Fraud

Take Five leaflet.
Message says: "It pays to stop and think. 
If you receive an unusual request for financial or personal information from someone claiming they're from the bank or another trusted organisation take a moment to reflect, step back from the situation, and think about what's really going on.
Basic rules on how to beat financial fraud:
1. Never disclose security details, such as your PIN or full banking password
2. Don't assume an email, text or phone call is genuine
3. Don't be rushed - a genuine organisation won't mind waiting
4. Listen to your instincts - you know if something doesn't feel right
5. Stay in control - don't panic and make a decision you'll regret"

The amount of fraud and scams people have experienced has increased during the pandemic, with fraudsters taking advantage of the disruption.

Visit Take Five to Stop Fraud for information on the national campaign that offers straightforward and impartial advice to help everyone protect themselves from preventable financial fraud.

If you are concerned about something or want some advice or support before you take action you can contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit Action Fraud.