Who are Community Advice Lisburn & Castlereagh?

Community Advice Lisburn & Castlereagh (CALC) were previously known as Citizens Advice Lisburn & Castlereagh and we had to change our name and rebrand when Citizens Advice pulled out of Northern Ireland. We are an independent charity, registered with the Charity Commission and are members of Advice NI. We have been in operation from the early 1970’s and have a vast amount of experience in all areas of advice.

Are you Advice NI?

No, we are an independent charity, however, in order to be able to give advice we have to be members of an umbrella organisation. Previously we were members of Citizens Advice but since they have pulled out of Northern Ireland, Advice NI are our membership organisation, but we are a completely separate entity to them.

How much do your services cost?

All our advice and advocacy is provided free of charge. We receive funding from various sources including LCCC and DfC in order to provide our clients with the advice they need when they need it.

What area do you cover?

We funded for and able to offer advice to the residents of the Lisburn & Castlereagh Council area. If you are unsure whether you are in our area, if your bins are collected by Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, then we are your point of contact. There are equivalent Community Advice Offices or an independent advice agency in all the council areas in Northern Ireland.

What advice can you offer?

We can provide benefit advice, employment advice, consumer advice, housing advice, debt advice, tribunal representation, and advice in respect of any query you may have and if we don’t have the answer we will signpost or refer you to the relevant agency that can help.

Can you drop in to see an adviser?

We do not offer any drop-in services since the start of the pandemic, however we do offer limited face-to-face appointments for those who need them. Most areas of our work can be delivered over the phone or by email saving you time and a trip to the office. Our advisers have come up with alternative ways of completing forms etc since the start of the pandemic, meaning that we can deal with more clients in any given day.

How do I contact you?

You can call us on 02892662251, email us on calc@calcni.com or send us a message through our Facebook page.

Your adviser asked me for my date of birth and national insurance number, why?

All our advice is confidential, and these details are used to verify your identity should you have a follow-up enquiry. None of these details are used for any other purpose. If we are advocating on your behalf with the benefits agencies, then we need certain details to progress your case with them. We record all queries and the advice given on a secure, digital database and all data is handled according to GDPRUK.

Benefits advice

Can you help complete a PIP form?

Yes, our advisers are highly experienced in completing all manner of forms including PIP, DLA, Attendance Allowance, Blue Badge and any other form that you need help with. Give us a call and we will book you in.

I’m due to start work but don’t know if I will be better off working can you help?

Yes, we can carry out a benefit check and a better off calculation for you so that you will have an idea if you are financially better off whatever your new circumstances.

I have received a letter telling me I have been overpaid my benefits, can you help?

Yes, our advisers can look at the circumstances that led to the overpayment and advise whether there are grounds to challenge this and how to go about it. We can also act on your behalf and liaise with the benefit departments.

I think my benefit amount is incorrect?

Contact one of our advisers and they will check that you are receiving the correct benefit entitlement and may be able to identify other benefits that you may have an entitlement to.

Tribunal Representation

I applied for a benefit and it has been turned down. Can you help with a mandatory reconsideration?

Yes, we can indeed. If you contact us one of our highly experienced advisers will contact you to discuss your case.

I have appealed my PIP decision and need someone to help me with this. Can you help?

Yes, we have 2 highly experienced tribunal reps who can take you right through the process and can represent you at appeal.

Employment advice

Do you provide employment advice?

Yes, we provide comprehensive employment advice and can advise you on anything employment related and can take you right through to tribunal.

Do you represent at employment tribunals?

No, unfortunately we do not have an adviser who can represent you at tribunal but we can prepare you for self-representation and help you to negotiate the best outcome with your employer. Employment legal advice and representation is extremely expensive, and we feel that it is important that we are able guide and advise otherwise a large number of employees would lose out on their rights and entitlements.

Debt advice

Do you provide debt advice?

Yes, we have 2 debt advisers who can provide you with full and comprehensive debt advice service. There is a solution to every problem, and they can help you decide on the best course of action. There are various options including Debt Management Plans, Debt Relief Orders, IVA’s Bankruptcy and token offer payments.

What is a Debt Management Plan?

A DMP is an informal agreement between you and your creditors for paying back your non-priority debts. Non-priority debts are things like credit cards, loans and store cards.

You pay back the debt by one set monthly payment, which is divided between your creditors.

If you decide that a DMP is right option for you then our advisers will refer you to Payplan who is our trusted partner for these and they will deal directly with your creditors for you. This means you don't need to deal with your creditors yourself.

A DMP is not legally binding, meaning you're not tied in for a minimum period and can cancel it at any time.

What is a DRO?

A Debt Relief Order (DRO) is a way of dealing with your debts if you can’t afford to pay them. It means you don’t have to pay certain kinds of debt for a specified period (usually 12 months).

At the end of the DRO period, the debts included in it will be written off (‘discharged’) and you won’t have to pay them. The current limit to qualify for a DRO is £20,000. If your debts total more than this, there are other options.

Do you help with Debt Relief Orders (DRO)?

Yes, our advisers are qualified in giving DRO advice and can help you submit your application for a debt Relief Order.

What is an IVA?

An individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) is a formal and legally binding agreement between you and your creditors to pay back your debts over a period of time. This means it’s approved by the court and your creditors have to stick to it.

An IVA can be flexible to suit your needs, but it can be expensive and there are risks to consider.

An IVA must be set up by a qualified person, called an insolvency practitioner. The insolvency practitioner will charge fees for the IVA. These can often be high and are based on the amount you pay back through the IVA. The insolvency practitioner deals with your creditors throughout the life of the IVA

What is Bankruptcy?

If you have a debt problem, one of your options for sorting it out might be bankruptcy. You can apply for bankruptcy if you can’t pay back your debts.

As well as applying for bankruptcy yourself, someone else you owe money to (a creditor) can ask a court to make you bankrupt, even if you don’t want them to. They can only do this if you owe at least £5,000. Self petitioning for bankruptcy is expensive.

Bankruptcy costs In Northern Ireland:

  • the court fee is £151
  • the bankruptcy deposit is £525, and
  • there is a solicitor’s fee of approximately £7, depending on your solicitor

Bankruptcy can have serious consequences - it might not be your only option and it might not be the best one for you.

How do I contact your debt advice team?

You can call us on 02892662251 and our triage staff will take your details and pass them to our debt team.

Alternatively, you can email us on calc@calcni.com

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