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howells direct - Brintex

howells

direct

Telephone legal

advice services

Straight to the

heart of the matter


Howells Direct - Who we are

and what we do

We provide a nationwide legal advice service

on behalf of the Legal Services Commission

and local authorities, advising on debt,

employment, housing, welfare benefits and

family law.

Every year, we advise over 40,000 individuals

who access our efficient, cost effective, high

quality service.

As part of Howells LLP, one of the UK’s

leading firms of solicitors, we have more

than 30 years’ experience of dealing with

legal issues.

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What matters to us?

There are some fundamental principles which guide everything we do here at Howells Direct.

Accessibility – a service available immediately on demand, increasing access for time poor,

disabled and housebound clients.

Professionalism – we guarantee that everyone who calls us will be treated with the utmost

professionalism and we’ll do our best to find the best possible solution to their problem.

Quality counts – with experts in all the areas of law we offer, clients can be confident of a high

quality service, which is recognised by the Legal Services Commission. And our ongoing training

and development programme means that all our staff are continually updating their skills and

knowledge.

Value for money – we believe that the service we provide offers value for money without

compromising on standards.

Our vital statistics

• 120 staff in total

• More than 50% of our staff are women

• One in five of our staff has a disability

• One in five of our staff is from an ethnic minority

• Between them, our staff speak several languages, including Punjabi, Urdu, French,

German, Tonga, Arabic, Punjabi and Mirpuri

• Awarded the Investors in Diversity award for our inclusive approach to both clients and staff.

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Debt

Getting into debt can create a vicious circle, forcing people to borrow to pay off their most

pressing debts, which then results in an increase in their overall debt. Often people just

can’t see a way out of the mess they’re in but, depending on the circumstances, there may

be legal solutions to their debt problems.

We advise hundreds of people every year on how they can tackle their situation, take

control of their debts and, where possible, have some, if not all, of their debts written off.

We can advise clients on rescheduling debts though debt management plans, debt relief

orders and assistance with bankruptcy.

Irresponsible lenders –

bank cuts debt by £9,000

Mr F was being pursued by debt collectors for £12.500 owed on a loan taken out with

one of the big banks. At the time of taking out the loan, Mr F was on Income Support,

but he was invited for a chat and a cup of tea by his bank manager who put pressure

on him to take out the loan.

We approached the bank and suggested they were guilty of irresponsible lending and,

after considering our complaint, they agreed to remove £9,000 from the balance and

allow Mr F to pay the remainder back at £1 per month.

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Mental health issues made

financial management a

struggle

Ms F had mental health issues, including anxiety and depression,

which were making it difficult for her to manage her finances and

she had debts of nearly £7000. With two children and a job, getting

advice over the phone was much easier than getting to a face to

face meeting.

Our debt advisers assisted her in dealing with a number of County

Court judgments and a Debt Relief Order, as well as liaising with

the housing team on Ms F’s representation in court over her rent

arrears. We were also able to help her get a review of her benefits.

Telephone advice

the best solution

Mr P has problems with alcohol dependency

and struggles to get to face to face

appointments. He had debts of £2,400,

including a County Court judgment. The

payment arrangements he had in place were

unrealistic and we were able to advise him on

ways to move forward, including a trust fund

application and possible Debt Relief Order.

£12,000 in debt

Mr H had a very difficult home life as well as mental health issues. He was very disorganised and found it difficult to get face to

face advice. With his debts totalling more than £12,000 we were able to advise on Court proceedings and a Debt Relief Order.

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Housing

Everyone needs a roof over their head and problems with housing can be hugely stressful. Dealing with

a landlord who won’t make essential repairs or is threatening eviction makes it hard to concentrate on

anything else. And as the cuts in housing benefit come into force, it’s likely that more and more families will

find it difficult to pay their rent, putting them at risk of losing their homes.

However, it’s often possible with timely intervention and legal know how to find solutions which can help

keep people in their homes. Here are just a couple of recent cases with successful outcomes, thanks to

our team of housing experts.

Home security for a mum

and her three children.

Mrs D had rent arrears of almost £10,000 and was being threatened with

eviction by her private landlord. Our caseworker negotiated with the landlord to put on hold

a claim for possession while we tried to resolve Mrs D’s housing benefit claim.

Working closely with the Welfare Benefits team, we secured a backdated housing benefits

payment which went direct to the landlord to clear the arrears in full – and in the meantime

Mrs D and her three children were able to stay in their home.

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Supporting a family from homeless

hostel to their own home

When Mr Y’s wife and three children moved back from Pakistan to join him, it was impossible

for them all to live in his single hostel room. They moved into a homelessness hostel for

families and the local council then offered them a three bedroom housing association property

but Mr Y refused that as he needed an extra ground floor living room for his autistic son.

As a result, the council withdrew their duty towards him and asked him to leave his temporary

accommodation.

Mr Y then contacted us and, on our advice, tried to accept the first property but this failed. He

then requested a review of the suitability of the property and the council allowed the family to

remain in the hostel during the review. We also assisted him with submissions to support his

case. After the specialists involved in Mr Y’s autistic son’s health and development gave their

views, the council overturned their original decision and offered the family another suitable

property.

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Employment

Being unemployed causes all kinds of problems, and in many cases it is possible to challenge an

employer’s decision to sack someone or select them for redundancy. Sometimes people walk away from

their jobs because they are being bullied or discriminated against and, in such cases, it can be possible to

make a claim for constructive dismissal.

Time is of the essence in employment claims and it’s absolutely vital that anyone who feels they may have

been unfairly treated at work seeks specialist legal advice as soon as possible. Here are a few recent

cases on which our employment specialists have advised clients and delivered successful results.

£10,000 for unfair dismissal

and discrimination

We obtained compensation of £10,000 for Mrs K from London in respect of her claims

for unfair dismissal and discrimination.

“The Employment Tribunal process is not easy,” said Mrs K. “The process is scary and

intimidating and, without the help of Howells Direct, I think that I would have given up

a long time before the case came to a conclusion. The whole process is a mine field

if you are not in the know or do not have a legal background. If it had not been for

Howells, I feel that I wouldn’t have got anywhere.”.

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Compensation for woman dismissed while pregnant

Ms A from Liverpool had been successfully employed for 11 years when she became pregnant. Once she told her employers about the

baby, her treatment deteriorated and she was dismissed for alleged poor performance. It was proved that the reason for her treatment

was pregnancy-related and she received compensation totalling more than £30,000 for injury to feelings and loss of earnings.

Not too late for disability claim

Mr C from Manchester issued a claim for disability discrimination almost four years

late and we were able to persuade the Employment Tribunal to hear his claim. His

former employer eventually agreed to pay him compensation of £22,000.

False allegations led to suspension

Mr B from the Isle of Wight was suspended from his job following false allegations.

Our involvement ensured the allegations were dropped but Mr B resigned and claimed

constructive dismissal, and we managed to secure him compensation of £11,000.

We’ve won over £5 million in employment compensation for our

clients over the last five years

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Welfare Benefits

Finding out exactly what benefits a client is entitled

to and then ensuring they get them can be quite a

challenge. There are hundreds of different possible

combinations of benefit and many people miss out on

significant amounts of money simply because they don’t

fully understand how the system works.

With the changes in Incapacity Benefit and the move

to Employment Support Allowance and the Universal

Credit, expert advice will be even more important than

before.

Over the last 12 months, nearly

6000 people have become better

off as a result of our advice

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Significant ESA back payment for client

Mr R was dependent on alcohol and had challenging behaviour. Our adviser was able to communicate with him directly in Urdu, without the

need for an interpreter. As a result of our intervention, Mr R is now receiving Employment Support Allowance of £25.95 per week, and this was

backdated giving him an arrears payment of around £1,300. All of this was achieved without the client having to attend the tribunal hearing.

Help for client with mental health problems

Mrs A had severe mental health problems and our adviser managed to help her successfully pursue a claim for Employment Support Allowance,

resulting in weekly payments of £25.95 and a payment in arrears of more than £1100. We have also been able to advise her on a Disability Living

Allowance claim which is currently under discussion.

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Family

Family breakdown is sadly more common than ever and can put a severe strain on

whole families, especially children. Many people are unaware of their rights when a

relationship breaks down but if they seek specialist advice at an early stage it can help

avoid problems escalating later.

Family problems often lead to “clusters” of other problems. We are experienced at

identifying urgent issues and can put clients in touch with the other CLA teams, for

example, if they need benefits, housing and debt advice or are worried about how they

will pay the mortgage after separation.

We are able to act quickly in emergency situations such as domestic violence or

children not being returned after contact. We can advise about children, financial

and domestic violence issues, whether people are married or not.

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Father restores contact

with his son

Mr B rang us after his ex partner suddenly stopped his contact

with their one year old son after an argument. His partner had a

learning disability and she alleged Mr B was harassing her.

We negotiated a trial Christmas contact visit through her solicitors

and after extensive enquiries we also managed to secure the

offer of a free place in a local contact centre. We then referred

both parties to mediation where they were able to agree on future

contact without the need for court proceedings.

The case of the

disappearing husband

Mrs A was married to an Iranian national who disappeared abroad

before she could serve him with the divorce petition. She had drafted

the petition herself but did not know what to do next because he left no

forwarding address and no-one in his family knew where he was.

We helped Mrs A make the extensive enquiries needed to satisfy the

court and we drafted a long sworn statement in support of her case.

With the help of this document, Mrs A was able to get her divorce

without further delay.

“I thought I was a common law wife?”

Miss C and her three young children were thrown out of their home by her violent partner. The house was in his sole name but they were

not married. Miss C believed she was entitled to maintenance and a share in the house because they had lived together for more than

six months but she had not paid anything towards the mortgage.

We advised Miss C to apply for an urgent occupation order so that she could go back there safely with the children after her violent

partner had been ordered out. She later went on to get a court order both allowing her to stay in the house until the children were grown

up and declaring she had a 30% share.

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“I wouldn’t have been

able to do it without you

- thanks for all you have

done and your kindness”

“ Many thanks for sorting

out my financial problems.

I was getting to the point of

desperation until you came

along. I have full confidence

in you.”

“Just to say that your

professionalism and care was

greatly appreciated by myself and

my family - thanks again!”

What our clients say

“Thank you for everything you have done for me.

You have eased my concerns and re-assured me.

Thank you for being helpful, cheerful and friendly.

Your kind personal approach was lovely.”

“I just had to write and tell you how absolutely

lovely your helpline staff are – I didn’t expect

to talk to such delightful people, all of them!”

“I am so glad you could help – all the solicitors

I tried were booked up and because of my

work I would have had to wait weeks to see

someone.”

“Thank you for making my

appeal such a success”

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We can also provide telephone advice on other

issues such as personal injury, clinical negligence,

actions against the police and immigration and

asylum work.

If your organisation delivers or procures advice

services or wants to improve support to a general

advice service, we can help improve efficiency

and cost effectiveness. Telephone advice is 45%

cheaper than face to face advice.

If you’d like to talk to us about our telephone

advice service, then please contact Pam

Kenworthy, Legal Director of Howells Direct, for an

informal discussion. You can contact Pam by email

at PKenworthy@cla.howellsdirect.com or ring her

on 0114 252 6409.

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