New Family Support & Advice Service

CHAI Advice is coming to your local School!

CHAI are now providing free, impartial and confidential advice directly to families across Edinburgh whose children attend the following schools –

  • Tynecastle High School
  • Dalry Primary School
  • Stenhouse Primary School
  • Pilrig Park School
  • Rowanfield School

The appointments are based within each school to make the service more accessible for parents/ guardians who may be struggling with:

  • Housing Issues
  • Debt Problems
  • Income Maximisation
  • Welfare Rights

Book an Appointment Today

We believe everyone should have the same opportunity to accessing advice services so if you’re in need of help or wish to refer a client for an appointment, please contact the relevant school above for further details.

Newsletters

We issue bi-monthly newsletters to keep parents updated on welfare rights issues that are relevant to them.

For example, in our first issue, we cover help with school meals and school uniforms, disability benefits for children over 16 transitioning from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and how to avoid tax credits pitfalls.

Newsletter – November 2017 –Schools Project_Newsletter_Issue 1

Further Information

Please contact CHAI on 0131 442 2100

Edinburgh Legal Walk

2017 EdiLW Fundraising Banner

A CHAI/EHAP Team successfully completed the Edinburgh Legal Walk on Monday 9th of October – a 10 Km walk around the centre of Edinburgh.

Why we walked?

The need for free legal advice and representation has grown in the past few years. The recession has increased poverty and reduced support services. Meanwhile funding for the advice centres themselves has reduced.The work our Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (EHAP) service does:
  • Prevents families being made homeless
  • Prevents destitution
  • Helps people gain the support to which they are entitled

EHAP

If you want to help us continue to provide an effective and free Court Representation Service for those facing eviction/repossession for rent or mortgage arrears, you can still donate here

Thanks!

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.

As part of this project, we also 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 such as credit unions.

FICS Newsletter Issue 1 July 2017.

FICS Newsletter Issue 2 – September 2017

FICS Newsletter Issue 3 – November 2017

You can also follow FICS on twitter:  @CHAI_FICS

ORT, Recovery and Me

ORT

National Meetings List

 

Glasgow:  Tuesday 6pm-7pm

Drug Crisis Centre, 123 West Street, G5 8BA

Telephone: 0141 420 6969

Glasgow:  Wednesday  1.00-2.00pm

PARC, Church of the Nazarene, 12-15 Burgher Street, G31 4TB

Telephone: 0141 550 1044

Glasgow: Wednesday 5.30-6.30pm

SERAG Offices’, Adelphi Centre, 12 Commercial Road, G5 0PQ

Telephone 0141 429 6006

Glasgow: Thursday 1.00pm-2.00pm

CREW, Jenniburn Centre, Castlemilk, G45 0HE

Telephone: 07470372375

Glasgow:  Friday  5.00 – 6.00pm

RAFT, Adelphi Centre, 12 Commercial Road, G5 0PQ

Telephone: 0141 429 6006

Glasgow: Thursday 3.30-4.30pm

Second Chance Project, 402 Sauchiehall Street G2 3JD

Telephone: 0141 336 7272

Dundee: Tuesday 2.30-3.30pm

Children First, 47 Bunshall Street, DD1 5DF

Telephone: 07950703742 (Crèche Facilities Available)

Falkirk: Thursday 4.30pm-5.30pm

Pop Up Recovery, Dawson Centre, Davids Loan, Bainsford, FK2 7RG

Edinburgh:  Friday   3.00 – 4.00pm

Serenity Cafe Edinburgh, 8 Jackson Entry, Edinburgh, EH18 8PJ

Telephone: 0131 556 8765

West Lothian: Tuesday  4.00pm-5.00pm

Pre-Sync, 27 George Street, Bathgate.

Linlithgow: Thursday 2.00pm-3.00pm,

The LYPP Lounge, 29 The Vennel, Linlithgow, EH49 7EX

Telephone: 01506 670433

Ayr:  Friday  12.00 – 1.00pm

Ayr Baptist Church, 9 Mews Lane, KA7 1DL

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

The Bedroom Tax – Say No to Evictions

Housing Benefit EvictionWe’re now only a few short weeks away from the introduction of one of the more contentious elements of the UK Government’s Welfare Reform agenda.  Perhaps appropriately, All Fools Day sees the start of the Under Occupancy Charge or ‘Bedroom Tax’ – as it is increasingly known.

The Bedroom Tax is targeted on working age Social Sector tenants (those in Council and Housing Association properties) who are deemed to be under-occupying their accommodation by one or more bedrooms.  Those who are affected, and who are in receipt of Housing Benefit, will have that Benefit reduced by between £13 – £24 per week depending on their rent costs and the number of ‘extra’ bedrooms they have. Continue reading

Food for Thought

This morning’s report by Citizens Advice Scotland that increasing numbers of Scottish families are being forced to rely on charities to provide basic items of food is depressing but, sadly, comes as no great surprise to those of us who are working on a daily basis with individuals and families impacted by the economic recession and the Government’s Welfare Reform agenda. Continue reading

“A Visit to CHAI – An Invaluable Local Service”

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Sarah Boyack MSP

This month we were delighted that Edinburgh MSP, Sarah Boyack, took time out of her busy schedule to pay us a visit and hear more about what we do.  During her visit we shared some of our concerns around the UK Government’s Welfare Reform agenda, and she heard directly from one of our service users of the difficulties that often flow from ill health issues.

You can see what Sarah made of her visit on her own blog:

 http://www.sarahboyack.com/?p=1730

Unlawful letting agent fees – money for nothing?

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This month we have a special ‘Guest Blog’ from our friends at Shelter Scotland.

They are currently running a successful campaign to encourage private tenants to reclaim tenancy fees that have been unlawfully demanded by landlords and their agents.

Tom Youll, Writer for Shelter Scotland’s online housing information resources, tells us more:

“Consider this scenario, you’re looking for a flat to rent, you see an advert for one that matches your requirements, you enquire if it is still available, it is and what’s more the letting agent is happy for you to move in. So you pay the first month’s rent and deposit and move in. Yes this is an idealised story of what happens when people rent in the private rented sector and you’d be right to say that there is something missing, like all the admin fees that sometimes come with the renting process.

Whether they are called reservation fees, reference checks charges, credit checks, inventory fees or check-in fees, it seems that when you rent a property from some letting agents you have to pay all the associated fees with setting up the tenancy. And if you refuse to cough up the cash, then you run the chance of losing the property to someone who is willing to pay.

We believe that this should not be the case and Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 offers protection from having to pay fees. It states that any premium in addition to the rent and deposit cannot be charged in the granting, renewing or continuing of a tenancy. This legislation has been law for nearly 30 years, but is regularly misinterpreted or simply ignored.

Here at Shelter Scotland we recently launched the Reclaim your fees campaign to highlight this issue and our Campaigns team visited various towns and universities across the country advising people on unlawful fees and what to do if they think they’ve paid them in the past, or are being asked to pay them to take out a future tenancy.

We also have a dedicated website with a toolkit that can be used to reclaim any fees that you have paid to your letting agent. On the website you’ll find:

  • template letters
  • a step-by-step guide on how to about reclaiming your fees
  • answers to many of the questions you may receive from your letting agent once you have asked for your fees to be returned.

You can also find success stories on the website, such as Scott Kuku who got £320 returned from his letting agent after threatening to take his case to the small claims court and Tim Macdonald who received £150 after his case went to the small claims court.

So far, since the campaign was launched on 7 May 2012, 549 people have used the toolkit to start claiming back over £60k in total.

To find out more about the work of Shelter Scotland follow us on Twitter or Facebook.”

More Welfare Reform … and some ‘kite flying’

Parliamentary Report

The Coalition Government’s Welfare Reform agenda has never been very far from our thoughts over recent months (see previous blog posts on this subject).

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 finally passed into law in February after a short rear-guard action by members of the House of Lords, who sought to mitigate some of it’s more controversial elements.  We’ll start to see more of the detail involved in the ‘flagship’ policy areas of Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment over coming months as the regulations which put the meat on the bones of the primary legislation start to roll out.

In the meantime the steady stream of less dramatic tinkering with the welfare system goes on.

At the start of this year the Single Shared Accommodation Rate of Local Housing Allowance was extended to people under the age of 35 (from 25:  see our EHAP service website for details).  The effect of this for most of the 150 – 180 tenants affected in Edinburgh is that they will need to move from their current accommodation into a shared flat – or run up unsustainable rent arrears, and face eviction.

The start of the new financial year – 6 April – saw another financial blow to thousands of working families with a change in the Working Tax Credit rules, requiring working couples to now work a minimum of 24 hours per week between them (up from 16 hours).  This change will force couples to either find an additional 8 hours of work, or risk losing a significant chunk of their household income.   The timing of this particular change is unfortunate – and baffling.  On the one hand, of course, it could hardly be a worse time, economically, for hard-pressed couples to be trying to find those crucial extra 8 hours.  On the other hand, the proposed Universal Credit – which will replace Working Tax Credit from October next year – will quite deliberately not have these same restrictions in terms of hours worked.  It seems politically odd, therefore, to bring this change in at this point, when all it may achieve is to apply 18 months of financial pain to those adversely affected.

While those changes are now with us, another one that is perhaps yet to come was flagged up by the Policy Unit at Number 10 just before Easter:  the withdrawal of Housing Benefit from Under-25’s (see Guardian article).

Hopefully this will prove to have been only a piece of ‘kite flying’ to test reaction – however, nothing surprises anymore when it comes to this Government’s Welfare Reform plans.  The LHA changes referred to above have effectively meant that, up until the age of 35, the State’s expectation is that if you are a single person you should flat-share.  This new suggestion would imply that the Government feels that ‘young people’ should remain in the parental home until they are 25 years old (when, presumably, they can then join together and share a flat until they are 35).  Most concerning, though, would be the impact of this on those already living independently – and particularly on those for whom ‘going home’ is simply not a realistic option.

The underlying narrative of the Government’s Welfare Reform agenda is that people who can work, should work – and that unemployment is not to be rewarded.    Fair enough – assuming that the jobs, and support to get them, is out there.  However, these most recent changes – and this most recent ‘kite flying’ exercise over Housing Benefit for under-25’s – impact equally on those who are in-work, but who still require income and housing cost support because – for all too many – work simply doesn’t pay enough.  Eroding and, in some cases, completely removing these supports is counter-productive and lacks coherence and will only lead to increased hardship for those affected.

No doubt this is a theme we will return to in the months ahead …

~ ~ ~ If you think you are affected by any of these issues you can get advice from CHAI’s Advice Service (0131 453 6410) or Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership (0845 302 4607)