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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 201

Date:- 15 May 2005

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A TEAM who help the families of autistic children, home carers and handymen were among the winners at the city council's annual 'oscars' ceremony. They were among the record 180 entries for the 2005 Be Proud awards, which celebrate the excellent work and achievements of city council staff.

The Autistic Spectrum Disorders team walked off with the 'Rising Star' award for their pioneering work developing training courses for parents of youngsters who suffer from the condition.

This unique project has included teaching almost 300 families how to handle issues such as sex education and changes in the behaviour of their child as they get older. The National Autistic Society has praised it and the team have been asked to develop training across the northwest.

The 'Hero' award went to Margaret Murphy - a social worker at Royal Liverpool Broadgreen Hospital. She was nominated for her work in reviewing the amount of home care people receive and redirecting it away from people who no longer need it to those who do. As a result, an extra 1400 hours of care have been recycled back into the system.

Council leader Mike Storey said:- "I was immensely impressed with all of the entries for the Be Proud awards - some of them are inspirational. There is some fantastic work going on across all areas of the city council and staff are helping Liverpool achieve its aim of becoming a premier European city."

Executive member for equalities, Councillor Marilyn Fielding, said:- "There's a vast pool of talent in the city council's workforce. There are so many people within the organisation who are constantly striving to improve the services we offer to the people of Liverpool." 

The Handyperson service, which helps older and vulnerable people by doing odd jobs around their homes won the 'Top Team' award.

2 special Chief Executive's awards were presented to the Corporate Debt Recovery team for recovering £1.6 million owed to the council, and also to the council's dedicated team of Home Carers who work all year round providing help and assistance to people in their own home.

Sir David Henshaw said:- "The Be Proud awards show what inspired and committed people right across the city council can achieve. There were heart-warming stories behind every short listed application. It was a great opportunity to say thank you to just some of the staff who are making a difference and doing a fantastic job."

The other winners were:-

The 'Best in the Business' Award 
The planning team for making big improvements to the application process, resulting in a huge improvement in their performance.

The 'Liverpool Way' Award 
The One Stop Shop team for their dedication to excellent customer service and personal development. 

The 'Breakthrough' Award 
The Harry Potter events team, Central Library - for organising themed events which attract thousands of youngsters and their parents.

The 'World Class' Award 
'Team Liverpool' - for radically transforming the way the council does business with customers. 

The 'Top Boss' Award 
Chris Walsh, Head of Committee Services - described by his team as a fair and even-handed boss with energy and a positive attitude

The 'Icon' Award 
Angela Lewis, Internal Audit - for graduating from the city council's Positive Action Training scheme to becoming a mentor to motivate and encourage other trainees.


DEBIT Free Direct, the independent company which provides free impartial and professional advice to people with serious debt problems, says that the recent rise in personal insolvencies as reported by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) last week, is in part a result of individuals receiving poor advice when looking for solutions to their debt problems. In many cases, it believes this stems from the fact that many of the organisations offering advice on how to reduce debt only sell one or two products as opposed to providing access to a full range of debt solutions.

Debt Free Direct welcomes the figures from the DTI that there has been a 40.1% rise in the number of Individual Voluntary Agreements (IVAs), as it believes this is often a better alternative to bankruptcy. However, it believes that many people with serious debt issues are not allowed access to this process because creditors can be reluctant to agree to them. 

Debt Free Direct would like to see a change in legislation that makes these legally binding on all creditors unless they can show that the consumer has been dishonest in either obtaining credit or in their personal details outlined in their IVA proposition. However, creditors should also be able to benefit from any windfall such as an inheritance the debtor benefits from during the repayment process. 

An IVA is a legally binding contract between an individual and all of his or her creditors to repay them only what they can realistically afford with the balance of their debt being written off. Creditors agree to waive interest on debts in exchange for receiving a regular amount each month over a set period, normally 5 years. Affordable monthly payments are calculated based on the person's income and expenditure. 

Andrew Redmond, Chief Executive, Debt Free Direct said:- "Poor advice means many people with serious financial problems opt for bankruptcy when they would be better off with an IVA. With bankruptcy, your assets - including in many cases your home - are sold off to help pay your creditors, and your bank accounts and credit cards can be cancelled. For certain professions, you could also lose your job. Instead more people should be considered for an IVA. Many more people would benefit from having an IVA, but have either not heard of them or find it too difficult to persuade their creditors to agree to them. We would like to see more being done to promote the use of IVAs as an alternative to bankruptcy and a change in the law to allow more debtors access to them".

As part of Debt Free Direct's service, if an IVA is appropriate for a customer, it will negotiate on their behalf with their creditors. 

Debt Free Direct offers the following advice to people who are finding it difficult to make repayments on their debts:- 

1. Don't ignore the problem. One of the biggest challenges is to face up to the problem and do something about it. 

2. Draw up a list of your debts and prioritise them. Top priority should be given to your mortgage or rent payments because otherwise you could face losing your home

3. If you have a number of creditors and are finding it difficult to make your repayments, take professional advice from a debt advisory service like Debt Free Direct. They can help you find the best way to get your debt back under control. 

4. Look for ways to reduce your expenditure: Could you cut back on eating out or shopping, for example? 

5. Think twice before taking on more debt, unless it's to pay off existing debt at a lower rate of interest. Ill advised borrowing can often makes the situation worse. Consolidation loans and debt management programmes are best for only a small proportion of people. Other solutions such as IVAs are available which may be more appropriate

For free advice on managing debt problems, call Debt Free Direct free on 08000 83 67 51.

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