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Fair Frome case study

Fair Frome exists to help the most disadvantaged individuals and families in the town. To many, Frome will appear to be a thriving place with low unemployment and a burgeoning cultural and social scene. However this masks a different reality for many people in the town who are unwaged or on zero hour contracts and paying high rents and fees in the private sector.

Bob Ashford from Fair Frome explains. “With the help of the editor of the Frome Times, this is the third in a series of case studies featuring some of the people living in Frome and surrounding villages who are struggling.

“I can’t emphasis enough that these are real people, although names have been changed and inconsequential details have been added to protect their identity. We don’t present them to you to ask for your sympathy, they are all proud people who want to make their own way, all we want to do is make you aware of the issues facing some of your neighbours…….or perhaps even members of your family.

“Today we focus on a young woman and her children faced with a crisis and the range of barriers she faced when her circumstances changed. She has presented at Frome CAB who are currently working with her to find solutions:

“Clare is a single parent with two children aged 8 and one just turned five years old. Clare was receiving income support, child benefit, child tax credits, housing benefit and council tax support. She lives in a village outside of Frome and needs to take a bus to get into town.

“When her youngest child turned five she was no longer eligible for income support and had to make a claim for job seeker’s allowance. Her income support stopped and because of this her housing benefit and council tax support was suspended by the local authority until she provided them with details of her new income. She has 28 days to do this.

“She has to give evidence to the local authority to show she is not receiving any income from the DWP which means she has to visit her bank to get at least one month’s bank statements. Her nearest bank branch is in Trowbridge.

“She now has to wait while the Department of Work and Pensions process her new claim for JSA. When this happens she will again have to provide evidence to the local authority of her new income.

“While her council tax reduction is suspended she is still liable to make payments for her council tax. She was late with her first payment of council tax and now because she has not paid a second time, she has received a letter stating she is now due for all of the year’s council tax and needs to make a payment in full or contact the council and make an arrangement to pay. The council want this all paid by the end of the financial year or they will take her to court and seek a liability order which adds £70 to the bill.

“She has also received a letter from her housing association stating that they have been advised that she is not receiving housing benefit so she will now have to pay the full rent and to contact them to make arrangements for payment.

“She has an appointment to visit the job centre to see an adviser and to provide proof of who she is and to agree a job seeking agreement. She was late for this appointment because she tried to call all the government organisations to tell them what is happening (ie report a change of circumstances as per requirements). Because she was late, she could not see her job centre adviser. She is told to come back the next day which she agrees to.

“When she gets home, she realises that she does not have the bus fare to get in the next day. She does not have any family in the village and no-one can give her a lift. She has to use what little of her child tax credits she has left for this but it means she cannot buy all the food she has budgeted for.

“When she arrives at the DWP they take her information and she agrees a jobseeking agreement but they advise her that they have to make a report and state she missed her original appointment and for this they may sanction her benefit for four weeks. It also means that it might affect how long it takes to process her current claim. She does not realise that she can ask for an advance payment of benefit and jobcentre+ staff do not inform her of this.

“Clare has used her child benefit and child tax credits to pay for the buses to come into CAB and other essential appointments while she waits for the DWP to put her benefit into payment. Therefore she does not have enough to properly feed herself and her children and heat the house. The CAB are currently working with Clare and many other clients like her in Frome and surrounding villages.

“Fair Frome provides practical support for people in need through the Frome Food Bank, Community Dining and other practical projects. We also campaign against the causes of poverty and inequality. If you want to support us in our work to assist people like Clare and sign up to donate an amount however small every month, please take a look at our Fair Frome Page on Local Giving  at https://localgiving.com/charity/fairfrome

“Between 13th October and 18th November, all online donations up to £10 will be doubled during the Local Giving ‘Grow Your Tenner’ campaign.” For more information about their work, pop into the office one morning, (9-12 noon, Monday to Thursday) or check out www.fairfrome.org

 

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