CHAI is moving Office

After 6 years of having our main office base at ELS House (555 Gorgie Road, Edinburgh) we are on the move.

Our new office is at:

Floor 5, Riverside House,              502 Gorgie Road, Edinburgh,      EH11 3AF.

We’re doing some internal ‘re-fit’ at the moment, but will be fully ‘open for business’ in the very near future.

Meantime, although we can no longer be found at ELS House, our staff and services remain fully accessible at the wide range of outreach venues that we operate from across the City of Edinburgh, and beyond.

To contact us, or book an appointment with our Advice, Employability or Housing Support Teams, use our contact telephone numbers and email address, which remain active and the same as they have always been:

  • Main CHAI telephone:  0131 442 2100
  • Advice Appointments:  0131 442 1009
  • Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership:  0845 302 4607
  • Email: chai@chaiedinburgh.org.uk

Or use the ‘Contact Us’ section on this website.

We’ll be fully operational at our new office base address soon, but all post sent to ELS House is being re-directed, and will get to us.

See you soon!

Helping Private Rented Sector Tenants

We are delighted to announce a new project aimed at supporting tenants in the private rented sector (PRS).

The new project will work with tenants currently living in the PRS who are at risk of losing accommodation. This may be due to rent arrears, disrepair or harassment by their landlord. They may also have barriers to finding alternative accommodation in the PRS, including lack of deposit, difficulty finding accommodation due to requiring benefits to pay for accommodation and/or suffering from mental health issues. These barriers will be addressed through income maximisation and the use of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP), grants to secure deposits and rent deposit guarantee schemes.

Tenants will also be supported to remain in their current accommodation through pursuing repairs through the Housing & Property Chamber, income maximisation, negotiation with private landlords, money advice and improving budgeting skills. When it is not possible for the client to remain in their current tenancy or they do not wish to do so, they will be supported to find suitable and sustainable alternative accommodation.

Welcoming the new Project, Fintan Kavanagh (CHAI’s Deputy Service Manager, Housing Advice) said:  “Our Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP) service has a great deal of experience in engaging with tenants in the private rented sector, and that experience has clearly demonstrated the challenges that come with living in that sector.  This new service will enhance our capacity to meet those challenges and bring dedicated advice and support to PRS tenants who need it most.”

CHAI is currently recruiting for a part-time PRS:  Advice & Support Worker to develop the new project.  Details can be found here.

CHAI gratefully acknowledges the support of the Bank of Scotland Foundation in funding the new project.

New Financial Inclusion Project at CHAI

CHAI has been commissioned by Trading Standards Scotland to deliver a new ‘Financial Inclusion & Capability Service’ (FICS), aimed at promoting improved financial capacity for those who may be at particular risk of having to turn to illegal money-lenders.

The new Project works with the four Recovery Hubs in Edinburgh, focusing on income maximisation, debt management and financial education.

Newsletters

As part of the project, we issue bi-monthly newsletters on money advice issues. So far, our newsletters have focused on budgeting, access to free banking, the costs of borrowing, the dangers of illegal lending, and alternative forms of affordable credit.

FICS Newsletter Issue 1 July 2017

FICS Newsletter Issue 2 September 2017

FICS Newsletter Issue 3 November 2017

FICS Newsletter Issue 4 January 2018 – Special Myth Busting

Use the comment box if you wish to suggest ideas for articles in future newsletters.

To subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletters, send us an email with your email address through our Contact Page.

Financial Capability Resources 

We have produced a handy booklet with lots of budgeting and money management tips to help you take control of your money. You can download it here:

Financial Capability Resources Pack

You can also download our budget planner to record your income and regular expenditure items and come up with your own budget.

Twitter

You can follow FICS on Twitter at:  @CHAI_FICS

 

All the world’s a Courtroom …

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Young Solicitor makes telling legal point!

Today’s Guest Blog is from Nellie Allen-Logan, an Intern who is on placement with our Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP) Service.  Nellie is in the final year of a Law Degree at Arizona Summit University, and we asked her to reflect on her experience of the civil legal system in Scotland compared with ‘back home’ …


 

Even though it was in the middle of winter when I arrived in Scotland from sunny Arizona, my shock did not come from the weather, but from the vast differences in law. The United States (U.S.) brought their common law from England through the Magna Carta. However, Scotland does not follow English law, but Roman law. Their common law is an ancient set of rules that are not written down, but govern by word of mouth. Common law in the U.S. follows old English law (which for the U.S. is only a few hundred years old). Scottish common law goes back centuries to the time of Roman occupation and the general laws that citizens would follow. These ancient ways are still used today even though there is no binding legislation. One similarity that I have observed is the U.S. has state and federal governments, and here in Scotland, it is comparable to Scotland and the United Kingdom. Certain rights in the U.S. are divested to the states, and some to the federal government. This is similar here in Scotland, where Scotland maintains certain powers within its parliament as compared to the United Kingdom parliament.

In the U.S., every person that represents another person in a court of law, must be an attorney that has had a legal education and passed the state bar exam for the state they wish to practice in. On the other hand, Scotland allows lay representation in sheriff’s court for certain issues and amounts of money. A lay representative usually has a certain amount of experience and training so that they are competent when presenting a case in court. As a law student, I found this to be a bit of a challenge, but one I accepted with vitality. I was determined to learn Scottish laws and be able to represent persons in court as soon as I could. I was successful in my first court calling, and ensured that I was prepared for any situation that the pursuer or sheriff may present.

Sheriff Court

Edinburgh Sheriff Court on a typically Scottish sunny day …

One vast difference is the comparison of Sheriff’s court to Municipal court (city court) in the U.S. Even though Sheriff’s court is not as formal as high court, it still is full of tradition. Each representative or solicitor must bow to the seal upon exiting the court room. All solicitors wear robes, and the Sheriff usually wears a wig and robe. Additionally, the Sheriff is referred to as my lady or my lord. In the U.S., generally, judges (as they are referred to) are the only ones to wear robes, and they do not wear wigs. All attorneys usually wear a nice dress suit and no robes, and there is no bowing upon exiting the court.

I have noticed that Scotland is extremely generous with their welfare benefits and ensure that their citizens are well taken care of. In the U.S. welfare benefits are not as generous and generally, can be difficult to obtain. The idea of advice agencies is immensely charitable, especially when citizens of Scotland are not able to obtain the benefits they need, or are unaware of the benefits they should be receiving. In the U.S., usually, there are no agencies to give advice, but merely a place where the people can make claims. If a claim is denied, it is up to the person to figure out how to appeal the decision on their own. Here in Scotland, the government ensures that there are advice agencies to assist people with obtaining the advice they need to obtain benefits.

This has been an immensely eye opening experience for me regarding the legal field. To be able to go to another country and completely immerse myself in a new legal system has shown where the U.S. could improve, and these are ideas that I will take with me.

Nellie Allen-Logan

New Drop in for 16 – 25’s

scanCHAI is supporting a new Drop In Service at Clovenstone Community Centre (Wester Hailes, Edinburgh), targeted at 16 – 25 year olds.

The Drop In – Connections  4U – starts on Monday 27 October 2014, and runs every Monday from 12pm – 2pm.  Connections 4 U is run by Clovenstone Community Centre, and will feature music, entertainment and chat as well as assistance with benefit claims and help with employment and training opportunities.

CHAI’s Employability Worker, Ceri Paterson, will be on hand to give advice and support on education, training and job seeking.

If you are 16 – 25, live in the Wester Hailes area and fancy mixing some socialising with accessing help and support then Connections 4U may be 4U!

Further information can be provided by phoning Sas or Kerry at Clovenstone Community Centre on 0131 453 4561, or Ceri at CHAI on 0131 442 2100

CHAI is Accredited as a Living Wage Employer

Living wage LogoCHAI is delighted to have received formal Accreditation from the Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Initiative of our status as a ‘Living Wage Employer’.

Responding to the award of the Accreditation David Gardner, CHAI’s Project Executive, commented:  “Addressing poverty is a key objective of CHAI, so it made absolute sense for us to adopt the Living Wage as a minimum pay threshold for our own staff a couple of years ago.  One of the crucial routes out of poverty is through attaining employment that guarantees at least a living wage.  It’s what we aspire to for those we work with, and so we wanted to ensure at least that level of pay for those we employ”.

The Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Initiative was established in April 2014 and aims to increase the number of employers in Scotland who are recognised for their commitment to paying the living wage.

Further details of CHAI’s Accreditation as a Scottish Living Wage Employer can be found on the Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Initiative’s website.

If you would like to learn more about CHAI’s experience of being a Living Wage Employer please contact Bob Brown, Human Resources Manager, on 0131 442 2100.

Update on CHAI’s Community Open Day …

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On 2 October 2014, CHAI held its Annual General Meeting at our Office in Chesser  and invited  anyone interested in the work we do to attend our ‘Open Day’.

As well as hearing about our work over the past year, there were  a variety of information stalls staffed by members of CHAI staff  and by some of our key partner agencies – including Freshstart, Dunedin Canmore Youth Projects, Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership,  NHS CPNs, Health in Mind, and Pass It On.

This event was particularly well attended by service users and members of the local community. Indeed it was so successful that we are already turning our attention to how we can improve this event next year.

 

Money Advice: Quality Assured!

CHAI is delighted – and proud – to announce that Jill Taylor, our Money Advice WorkerCredit card online purchase who provides money advice and debt management support to tenants of Melville Housing Association, has recently become one of the first Advice Workers in Scotland to achieve the new ‘Certificate of Credit in Money Advice Practice’.

This new qualification of competence in money advice practice was launched in Scotland earlier this year, and Jill was one of the first intake of 20 applicants.  In achieving this Accreditation Jill has become one of the very few Money Advisers in Scotland to attain the new qualification.  Well done, Jill!

‘The Certificate of Credit in Money Advice Practice’ is an online distance learning programme delivered by Staffordshire University.  Set at Level 4, or first year degree level, it is designed to provide an independent and external validation of Adviser competence.  The qualification has been recognised by the Office of Fair Trading as a desirable and relevant qualification for money advice providers.

Clients who work with Jill can, therefore, be assured that she is working  to the best practice standards.Melville HA logo

Jill works exclusively with tenants of Melville Housing Association, as part of CHAI’s contract to provide Tenancy Support and Money Advice Services to tenants of the Association.

CHAI, of course, also provides money advice services to any residents of South and South-West Edinburgh, and to residents of Midlothian through our main Advice Service – which is fully accredited under the Scottish National Standards for Information and SNSlogo_RGB_thumb.jpgAdvice Providers.

If you would like to access advice around debt or money concerns you can contact our Advice Service on 0131 442 1009, or by emailing us via our website.

CHAI Opening Hours

Signpost to Support

CHAI main office at ELS House is open Monday to Friday at the times noted below:

Monday to Thursday – 9.00am to 5.00pm and on Friday from 9.00am to 4.00pm.

We can be contacted on 0131 442 2100 during these opening hours.

If you are in crisis outwith those times you can contact the Emergency Social Work Services on 0800 731 6969 (generally free to call from a UK landline). If calling from outside the UK please phone 00441315538286.

For details of other emergency support services available please see this page on our EHAP service website

Welfare Reform Alert!

Welfare Reform AlertWe’re still in the middle of the introduction of a wave of welfare reform measures as the Coalition Government continues to tighten the squeeze on welfare spending.  The key changes that have been coming in are:

  • Under-Occupancy Charge (aka ‘the bedroom tax’):  Working age tenants in the Social Rented Sector (Councils and Housing Associations) who are ‘under-occupying’ their accommodation by one or more bedrooms now have their Housing Benefit reduced by an average of £12 – £15 per week.  This is affects several thousand social sector tenants in Edinburgh.
  • Benefit Cap:  Working age claimants will have the maximum amount of weekly benefit they can claim capped (£350 for single people; £500 for families).  This may seem high, but it includes housing costs and is likely to hit those hardest who are living in expensive – usually Private Sector – accommodation.  These housing costs, of course, end up with the Landlord, not the tenant.  The Benefit Cap has impacted on Edinburgh from September 2013.
  • Disability Benefits:  Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being abolished for working age claimants and replaced, from 8 April 2013, by a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP).  New claimants will be affected by the changes from now but, the phased period of introduction means it will be into 2014 before existing Edinburgh DLA claimants are affected.
  • Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS):  Council Tax Benefit is abolished from April 2013, and is replaced with localised Reduction Schemes.  In England and Wales, the new Schemes are reduced so that even those who had previously not been liable for Council Tax will have to pay a minimum of 10%.  The Scottish Government has fully funded the Scottish CTRS for 2013/14, so there will be no reduction in the Scheme – at least for this year.
  • Scottish Welfare Fund:  Social Fund Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans are now abolished and replaced by new schemes run by local authorities.  In Scotland, the new Scottish Welfare Fund will provide Community Care Grants to promote community resettlement and Crisis Grants to help people in emergency situations.  The City of Edinburgh Council has set up a special team to manage the new Fund. To contact them go here.
  • Benefit Uprating:  Working age benefits will be uprated (increased) by only 1% over the next 3 years.  This is less than the rate of inflation and will further erode the value of these benefits.
  • Universal Credit:  This represents the most significant change to working age benefits for many years.  It won’t be rolled out across the UK until October – then running through to 2017, but a pilot of the new scheme will be run in the North-West of England from April 2013 and then roll out across other areas (including, in Scotland, Inverness from October 2013).  Delays to the UC scheme mean that it will be well into 2014/15 before Edinburgh residents see any impact, though.

If you are concerned that you may be affected by any of these changes, or would like to know more about Welfare Reform, you can contact CHAI’s Advice Service on 0131 442 1009 (or through the ‘Contact Us’ section of this website).