In January 2020, Anamaria moved into an Aspire property because she needed to live in an accessible home due to her spinal cord injury.  Aspire’s Welfare Benefits Advice team also worked with Anamaria to check she was getting the benefits she was entitled to.

Phil, Aspire’s Money Matters Specialist, was put in contact with Anamaria to talk through ways she could make the most of her day to day finances.  Phil says, “There were two major issues we needed to sort out. Firstly, Anamaria was being charged very high daily charges to heat her home, but the energy company could not confirm what tariff she was on.  The smart meter was not communicating accurate readings back to the supplier so they couldn’t be sure they were correctly recording the day and night rates of her storage heaters. Secondly, Anamaria was having technical difficulties when trying to submit her online claim for housing benefit to the local authority which meant that arrears were building up on her rent.

Anamaria in her wheelchair

Anamaria’s sister Roxana was trying to help whilst running her own business but endless calls without any result left them both feeling overwhelmed by the situation.

“I decided the best way to help was for me to speak to both the energy company and the local authority directly on Anamaria’s behalf with her permission. Regarding the energy company I made numerous calls rarely talking to the same person and little progress was being made. It was only after I escalated the issue as a complaint that we saw any progress. We were allocated a dedicated complaints handler who, to be fair, was very good giving us a clear understanding of the tariff situation, how the meter system worked, returned calls, and kept us informed. The tariff rate and meter reading were corrected and Anamaria was able to bring her bills up to date and able to manage her usage and costs going forward.  In addition, Anamaria was awarded £50 compensation for the inconvenience caused.

“Similar issues occurred with her Housing Benefit application and the local authority.  It took many phone calls and speaking to different people over a two month period for the claim to be completed and a benefit award made.“

In a further twist, the local authority would only back date the claim from the date the online process was ‘received’, but Anamaria and her sister had kept screen shots and emails showing the online portal wouldn’t accept the application when they first tried to claim.  Phil took this through the Formal Appeals Process and won the case which was important because the extra three weeks benefit Anamaria was correctly entitled to was a significant amount.  Without backdating to the correct date, Anamaria could have found herself in rental arrears through no fault of her own.

Anamaria, says,

I cannot express in words my gratitude and appreciation for the tremendous support Philip and the Aspire team gave me. It was a blessing to have such a dedicated and kind person like Philip by my side. He is making a huge difference to my life by making sure I am getting all the support I need. Thank you, Philip, for all your hard work and support.

As part of the Money Matters service Phil has also given guidance to Anamaria which she has been able to take forward herself regarding Council Tax Band Reduction due to her disability.  A further referral to her water company resulted in Anamaria qualifying  for a reduced water rate tariff due to her medical situation.

Phil concludes “Although I was the one making contact with third parties on Anamaria’s behalf both her and Roxana were very good as they kept records of all the communications they were receiving.  The three of us kept up weekly contact and it was a team effort to get the successful outcomes.”

There are many aspects of managing personal finances and Aspire’s Money Matters service continues to offer free impartial guidance to people affected by spinal cord injury to budget effectively, keep control of finances and, where needed, become debt free.

To talk to our Money Matters Specialist please call 020 8420 8960.


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