Advice about debt and managing your money

You may not be receiving all the money you're entitled to, or maybe you're struggling to make the most of what you have.

If you're trying to make savings on your utility bills, need help organising your finances more efficiently, or are unsure whether you could be entitled to benefits, the following information may help.

Credit unions

If you're looking for better ways to save and borrow, contact your local credit union:

Credit Unions operate at the following locations at the stated times
(except for bank holidays):

  • Mondays, 11am to 1pm: Customer Service Centre, Mandela House, Regent Street, CB2 1BY
  • Tuesdays, 9.30 to 10.30am: City Homes North, 171 Arbury Road, CB4 2YG
  • Tuesdays, 10am to midday: East Barnwell Community Centre, Newmarket Road, CB5 8RS
  • Tuesdays, 10.30am to 12.30pm: Brown’s Field Youth and Community Centre, Green End Road, CB4 1RU
  • Wednesdays, 11am to 1pm: Customer Service Centre, Mandela House, Regent Street, CB2 1BY
  • Wednesdays, 10am to midday: Trumpington Pavilion, Paget Road, CB2 9JT
  • Thursdays, 11am to 1pm: Customer Service Centre, Mandela House, Regent Street, CB2 1BY
  • Thursdays, 11am to 1pm: Ross Street Community Centre, CB1 3UZ
  • Fridays, 9am to 11am: City Homes South, 89, Cherry Hinton Road, CB1 7BS

Credit unions are registered with the Financial Services Authority, meaning your savings are protected in the same way as money deposited with a building society, but you will not earn interest on them.

The unions are co-operatives that are typically run by volunteers, which means any profits are put back into the union to fund loans to members.

The main benefits of credit unions are that they:

  • help members to save regularly;
  • lend to members at a low rate of interest;
  • provide advice and support to help members look after their money;
  • are run by people from the local community.

Managing your money

  • Use our handy online budget tool to help you keep track of how much money you have. 
    Our easy to use budget planner is free and should only take a matter of minutes to do, if you have all your financial information to hand.

There are a number of things you can do to maximise your money. For example:

  • check if you're entitled to tax credits
  • make sure you're getting the benefits you're entitled to
  • find out if your children are entitled to free school meals
  • make sure you're not paying too much tax (more information on Income Tax)
  • make sure that any family and friends living with you are paying enough towards household expenses
  • think about renting out a spare room to a lodger
  • check if your mortgage payments are covered by insurance

Further advice on managing your money:

  • Disability Cambridgeshire gives confidential advice direct to disabled people and their carers.
  • Citizens Advice Bureau provides information and advice on many matters including debt, employment problems, housing problems, family law and divorce and consumer problems. They also offer help with form filling, letter writing and representation at tribunals.
  • Family Rights Group advice service. FRG work with families who need advice and support because of child welfare needs or concerns.
  • StepChange Debt Charity offers free debt advice and can also help with arranging a debt management plan on your behalf.
  • The Debt Support Trust is a charity offering telephone or internet-based debt advice.
  • Shelter can offer you advice if you are struggling with unmanageable debt, rent or mortgage arrears.
  • The Money Advice Service has a number of very useful tools and planners to help your organise your finances, including personal money health check, debt test and budget planner.
  • Cambridge Money Advice Centre (MAC) offer free, confidential advice to help you get out and stay out of debt. They serve the people of the city of Cambridge, and their offices are at Barnwell Baptist Church.

Make sure you have the benefits you're entitled to

Follow these links for more information about:

  • Benefits (including Council Tax Reduction)
  • Tax credits
  • Turn to Us a charitable service that helps people access the money available to them, through welfare benefits, grants and other help

Dealing with debt

If you're already in debt and finding it hard to cope, it's important to deal with the problem straight away - the longer you ignore your debts, the worse the situation becomes.

The following organisations offer free and independent debt advice: 

Feeding yourself and your family

If you find yourself unable to provide food for you and your family, your local Foodbank may be able to help you, visit: cambridgecity.foodbank.org.uk/.

What support we offer our residents

If you'd like any more information about any of the support services detailed below, email enquiries@cambridge.gov.uk or telephone 01223 457000.

Help offered by City Homes to tenants and leaseholders

This section is for residents living in one of our council properties.

Financial advice service
(advertised in every 'Open Door' newsletter to all council tenants)
Confidential one-to-one financial and budgeting advice for any Cambridge City Council tenant.

Independent Living Service
(advertised in every 'Open Door' newsletter to all council tenants and leaseholders)
The Independent Living Service provide a one-stop shop for anyone living within Cambridge City who is disabled or over 60 years of age and needs advice or support.

Rent arrears support
Advice is offered at all stages of rent arrears, and those in arrears are offered a number of payment methods at a time and place to suit their circumstances, including Direct Debit, Paypoint and online. There is also a Housing Financial Inclusion Officer (James Stephenson) , and the possibility of referral to external agencies, such as Citizens Advice Bureau.

Tenant support
City Homes help new (and transferring) tenants to negotiate the Housing Benefit system.

Help for tenants in temporary housing

Housing Officers offer assistance in ensuring tenants receive the right benefits and will help complete benefit claim forms.

Options offered by the Housing Advice Service

Find out more about the full range of services available from our Housing Advice team.

Access scheme
The Access Scheme could help people who are struggling to afford the up-front costs of getting into private rented accommodation. 

Homelessness prevention
In some circumstances, we may be able to offer small interest-free loans, to help to avoid people losing their home.

Financial advice
Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau  provide an advice surgery from Mandela House every Wednesday morning. Email the Housing Advice Service to book an appointment.

Employment Advice
We can also refer people to an Employment Advisor, for help with CV writing, interviewing skills etc.

Utility bills and energy and fuel advice

Loan sharks

Legitimate lenders have government agreed standards for money collection. Legally, all loans must have paperwork outlining charges, the amount you have borrowed and the amount you need to repay. People who lend money outside of these rules are called 'Loan sharks'.

To check if someone lending you money has a licence to do so, visit the Financial Conduct Authority's website.

If you've borrowed money from a loan shark they may:

  • take your benefit or bankcard as security on the loan;
  • won't tell you when you'll finish paying;
  • increase the amount you owe even if you're making regular payments;
  • threaten or use violence to get money from you.

To report them in confidence:

Basic bank accounts

There are a number of basic bank account products that are specially designed for those people who find it difficult to open a full account, perhaps because of a poor credit history. For more information see moneysavingexpert.com/banking/basic-bank-accounts.

Other resources

Cambridge Central Library provides much more than just books. There are services for young people, information and advice service on learning and work for adults, help with information, advice and guidance on work and employment and also their learning centre offers a complete package of information, advice and courses for anyone wishing to undertake learning at a pace that suits them.

Visit: Cambridgeshire County Council's website to find out more.

Check out your local community centres as some provide free internet access and there are many free local events and groups.

Discounted swimming cards are available for people who claim benefit.

Contact us

Revenue Services (Benefits)

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