News | Citizens Advice Bureau Life advice
THREE most stressful events are death, divorce and moving home. The CAB say that while they are
not relationship counsellors, they can often offer important advice. This could cover residence and maintenance of children, the finan- cial split, future benefit entitle- ments, split of joint assets, dealing with debts, legal aid, court costs and where people are going to live.
MAIDSTONE CAB is one of 50 de- livering the Government’s Pension Wise advice – a new service set up to help people over 50 understand their options under the new pen- sion freedoms. The service has also been pro-
moted to a number of local compa- nies.
THE CAB says there is evidence that about a third of people in Maidstone do not have access to the Internet. Of those who do, 43% do not feel comfortable using it when dealing with other organisations. This is a barrier to establishing a claim for benefits or pursuing an appeal.
Downs Mail talk
DOWNS MAIL President Dennis Fowle addressed the annual meet- ing on: ‘So I started a newspaper.’ The Downs Mail will be 20 years old next April.
THE CAB now offers a wide range of energy advice, especially on comparison costs and switching supplier.
Financial worries head list of clients’ concerns
FINANCIAL worries continue to increase for many Maidstone res- idents and dominated requests for free help to the local Citizens Ad- vice Bureau (CAB) last year. Chairman Cllr Rob Bird reported
to the annual meeting that al- though Maidstone is regarded as a relatively affluent borough, 11% of residents live in areas falling in the government definition of the most disadvantaged 20%. Bureau staff recorded 29,458 ac- tivities and dealt with 41,197 is- sues. Most common concerns are debt (20.3%), benefits (29.5%),
housing (8.1%) and employment (7.8%). Online applications for help on benefits, debt relief orders and bankruptcy have increased. The bureau reports debts amounting to £326,795 were written off with an average per client of £10,212. And income gains amounted to £440,864. with an average per client of £4,159. “There has been a significant in-
crease in enquiries as the public struggle to keep up with proposed and actual changes to the benefits system made under the present
Wages abuse by employers
THE CAB says due to the nature of much local work – in bars, restau- rants, care industry and seasonal on farms – employees are prone to abuse by employers who try to avoid paying appropriately. The bureau says many struggle to survive even when working a
40-hour week. Too often they are not paid the new National Living Wage.
“Our advice on what they should be paid, aswell as how to claim
it, not only changes their lives individually, but also changes lives more widely as the impact of campaigns for better pay is felt,” says the CAB.
More advice needed in prisons DEMANDfor advice is growing from Maidstone prison and even 20 ses- sions aweek do not meet demand. Language is a problem because Maidstone is a designated foreign na- tionals prison, and other prisoners often help to interpret among the 85 different nationalities. The CAB says: “Many organisations in the public and private sector
seem to have no understanding of the difficulties prisoners have trying to put their lives on the straight and narrow.”
Sewerage inspection Neither the surface drainage problem nor the sewerage backflow problems appeared to have been completely resolved. The problem with the sewerage appeared more difficult than previously thought and Southernwater had yet to come up with plans to sort out the problem under the Grove Mill pond. Kent Highway services had gone quiet on the Tanyard Green flooding issue.
Police report Therewere no reports of any crimes but 10 calls had been made to the police, including two road traffic accidents, aswell as flytipping onWindmill Hill. Communitywarden report Dawn Riach- Brown continued to visit the village on a regular basis but therewere currently no issues arising. Sign The clerkwas to obtain a quote for the wooden sign at Jubilee Corner Cllr Kenward would inform the clerk of the relevant wording required. SpeedWatch The equipment had been received and this had been added to the insurance schedule. Planning Itwas noted that the borough
council had refused permission for the change of use of land at Hawthorn Farm, Pye Corner, Ulcombe to create two additional plots for gypsy accommodation. EnforcementAn updatewas received from Maidstone Council regarding the parish council’s enforcement enquiry about land adjacent to CharlesfordAvenue, Kingswood. Itwas noted that the landowner had been subsequently contacted by the officer in relation to their cyclo cross activities. Itwas agreed to continue to liaise with Kingswood and Broomfield Parish council on this maer if required. Stepping down Notificationwas received that Maidstone Council’s monitoring officer John Scarboroughwas stepping down from this role at the end of September. PondsAn emailwas received regarding free guidedwalks within the parish by members of the Kent Tree and Pond Partnership. The council agreed to try and organise this for late September. Pavilion alarm Itwas resolved to agree and annual contract with High Security Alarms Limited at a cost of £75 per annum. Local Plan Itwas confirmed that Ulcombe Parish Council would be able to participate at the Local Plan enquiry. Tree preservation ordersAlist of current
government,” says the bureau. Most enquiries continue to come
from Employment and Support Al- lowance (ESA) and Personal Inde- pendent Payment (PIP) applications. But more advice is required for applications for Discretionary Housing Payment where clients struggle to clear rent arrears or seek to make up shortfalls in hous- ing benefit as a result of the bed- room tax or higher council tax charges. This advice is benefitting clients on average by more than £2,500.
is ‘squeezed’ WORRIES about “fund squeezing” at the CAB by Maidstone Borough Council were expressed by veteran borough councillor Dan Daley at the group’s annual meeting. Hewas supported by other coun-
cillors present. The council grantwas £196,210 in
2015, but fell to £168,225 this year. The CAB reported a loss of £22,249 compared with £67,965 profit in 2015.
CAB chairman Cllr Rob Bird said Maidstone Councilwas itself being squeezed financially, but discus- sions were being held about next year and the CAB was hopeful. As funding became scarcer therewas a need to find newways.
orders had been received and the clerkwas to source further tree identification maps relating to these. Itwas agreed to arrange a meeting with Nick Gallavin, of Maidstone Couincil’s landscape team to identify further possible trees/wooded areas for protection including Knowle Hill and Rough Field Wood. Buses Cllr Titchener reported on recent discussions held in relation to the route taken by the out of service Nu-Venture number 66 bus in the afternoon which goes along Chegworth Road back to Maidstone as its quickest route. However, due to the narrowness of the lanes, itwas felt that an alternative route could be considered by the bus company. Discussions remained ongoing. Recreation play area The monthly inspection reportwas received from Maidstone Council. Therewere no items to report in relation to the pavilion or recreation ground. Highways Bollards along the Lenham Road needed replacing. The road markings at Five Wents crossroadswere poor and needed to be repainted. Donation Mr C Tassellwas thanked for his kind donation at the Queen’s birthday event.
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