Client stories

All names in these case studies are fictitious to protect clients' privacy.

Case Study 1: Help with budgeting

Andrew visited our main office looking for advice. He has a son, aged 6, who has learning disabilities and is cared for on a full-time basis by his wife. Due to the financial impact of caring for their son, Andrew’s wife made an application for Carers Allowance but was unsuccessful – she has limited English and struggled with the application process, failing to answer a letter from the DWP requesting further information about her situation.

We helped Andrew’s wife to make a new online application for Carer’s Allowance, ensuring that her new application was completed on time and in full. As well as her limited English, Andrew’s wife was not confident using computers, so she was very grateful for the assistance available at East Barnwell. Following our help with her new application, Andrew’s wife was successfully awarded Carers Allowance. At £3,359.16 a year, this is an invaluable amount of money and will make a considerable different to this family’s ability to manage their household budget.

Case Study 2: Improving quality of life

Patricia came to us at one of our GP surgery outreach sessions, as her limited mobility means she is unable to travel further. Patricia had many problems with her housing. She lives with her adult son who has learning difficulties and hard-to-manage behaviour. Patricia’s Housing Benefit claim had been stopped as her eligibility was affected by her son’s income, which lead to her falling behind on her rent and at risk of losing her home.

Patricia’s Housing Association had to move towards possession proceedings due to her large rent arrears, but they were aware of Patricia’s vulnerability and wanted to support her. Our adviser spoke to the council and the Housing Association on Patricia’s behalf due to her poor literacy and memory issues, and once they were made aware that Patricia was receiving support, they paused the possession proceedings.

After this immediate crisis was avoided, our adviser was successful in securing Attendance Allowance for Patricia, which then led to her Housing Benefit being reinstated. She was also paid her backdated Housing Benefit payments, which paid off her rent arrears and stopped her losing her home.

Our adviser had also noticed that Patricia had no adaptations to her home and was struggling to live there safely, including sleeping on the downstairs sofa due to her mobility issues. They contacted adult social services to request a needs assessment, which led to Patricia having adaptations made to her home and receiving equipment to improve her mobility. Now Patricia can live comfortably in her own home, and our work increased her annual income by £6,827.

Case Study 3: Facing a tribunal

Betty (46) suffers from serious mental and physical health problems. Unable to work, she has been reliant on various benefits as her only income. In 2019, she was transferred to the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) system. After completing the lengthy application without specialist help, Betty was informed that she would lose most of her income, as well as the Motability car she used for attending medical appointments. Our benefits adviser worked with Betty on the paperwork for her appeal, and to prepare for the tribunal hearing. Due to the Coronavirus lockdown, the tribunal was held by telephone; assessment by strangers whom one can’t see is a daunting prospect, especially for a client who’s in pain and experiencing depression and anxiety. Our representative’s involvement aimed to reduce the anxiety of the proceedings, so Betty would have the confidence to answer the panel’s questions. He could also intervene if the tribunal failed to consider key aspects of Betty’s situation. Betty won her appeal, with her PIP increased to match her previous disability benefits, and she should be able to keep her car. “I am indebted to you because without you I wouldn't have had a chance of winning,” she wrote.

Case Study 4: Help with benefit entitlements

For Graham, his wife and family, bureaucratic confusion led to a nightmarish situation. They had recently moved to a housing association property when Graham was told he was no longer eligible for Housing Benefit because his wife’s earnings were recorded as over £1,000 per month – yet she had no income at all. The Council advised Graham to apply for Universal Credit, whereupon his Working Tax Credit and Council Tax relief payments were also stopped, leaving him receiving £13 per week. The Council also threatened legal action for over-payment of Housing Benefit in view of his wife’s supposed earnings. The DWP, HMRC and South Cambridgeshire Council were sympathetic, but each declined to give Graham the evidence he needed to prove that his wife had no income. Richard, from Citizens Advice, intervened by phone, letter and email, getting the Council to delay legal action against Graham. He was also able to access HMRC’s specialist agents, and get the situation resolved, with the non-existent earnings expunged from Graham’s wife’s record, and all Universal Credit payments reinstated in full. Richard also arranged a back payment of the missing benefits. “I am really, really happy with this good result”, wrote Graham.

Case Study 5: Dealing with debt

Barry, in his mid 60s, suffered a serious brain injury that left him with cognitive impairment and problems with memory, attention and concentration, as well as high levels of anxiety. He first approached Cambridge Citizens Advice in January 2019 due to problems managing his mounting debts to utility suppliers. Over 11 months, he met with our debt advice specialist, Chloe, who worked with him to write a budget based on his income and outgoings. With this, she was able to contact the utility companies on his behalf, to agree on a realistic repayment plan, much reducing his anxiety caused by the pressure from debt recovery firms. Chloe also identified that Barry’s Personal Independence Payment application had been held up, and was able to arrange a back payment totalling £4,603.95. She further identified that he had been entitled to Severe Disability Premium, but had never received it, and arranged a back payment of £22,195.65. Chloe helped Barry in practical ways with daily life too, such as applying for a Disability Bus Pass, saving him over £720 per year for shopping trips, and cancelling payments totalling £73 per year relating to a mobile phone and laptop he no longer owned.

Case Study 6: Help with housing

Lila, a survivor of domestic violence, was moving from a hostel to permanent housing, but her only income was Housing Benefit and a small wage from her part time job. When she came to our drop-in, our advisers identified that she was entitled to the housing element of Universal Credit and helped her apply, gaining her £491.69 per month. Lila had multiple debts too, including council tax arrears and utility bills for her previous property, as well as Housing Benefit debt due to wrong calculations. Our advisers helped Lila to dispute the errors in her Housing Benefit, negotiated an affordable rate of £5 per month for repaying her council tax debt, liaised with British Gas to get £862.25 of debt written off, and liaised with BT to cancel £299.99 of forthcoming bills for a broadband package due to her exceptional circumstances. Our advisers also identified that Lila’s tax code was wrong, causing her to pay too much tax. Her employer has corrected this, and Lila became eligible for a refund of around £800.“I could never do this without you! Thank you for being there for me when I most needed support,” she wrote.