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The Harrington Brooks Blog

News, comment and views from the team at Harrington Brooks.

Caroline Wayman Becomes New Chief Ombudsman

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

Financial_Ombudsman_Service_logoPrinciple ombudsman and legal director of the Financial Ombudsman Service, Caroline Wayman, has been named as the new chief ombudsman, following Natalie Ceeney’s decision to step down from the position.

 

Wayman has been with the FOS for 14 years, after training as a barrister and working in the insurance sector. She said of her appointment:

“I’m delighted and proud to be given the opportunity to build on the very best of what the ombudsman has always been about – and lead the service into our next crucial phase.”

Chairman of the FOS Sir Nicholas Montagu congratulated Wayman on her new role, commenting:

“Caroline defines everything that is best about the ombudsman – and she will bring freshness, bold thinking and vigorous action to our plans for the future. As chief ombudsman she will ensure the service stays relevant and attuned to the needs of our customers, consumers and businesses.”

What is the Financial Ombudsman Service?

The FOS exists to be an impartial decision maker in complaints that cannot be resolved between consumers and financial institutions. It was set up by parliament, and is free to consumers.

 

FCA: Insurance Price Comparison Sites Confusing and Unclear

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

A review into price comparison websites by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has found that consumers are not given the appropriate information to help them make informed decisions about the products they are buying and had failed to implement Guidance published in 2011.Office work

The review also found that a number of sites did not make it clear to consumers what service they provided, leading many to incorrectly assume that the prices and policies presented to them had taken into account their suitability for the product as well as their individual needs.

The FCA found that focus was mainly on price, while other important considerations such as excess costs for a claim are not factored in.

A number of price comparison sites were also found to have broken FCA regulation by failing to make clear the potential conflict of interest through ownership by an insurance provider.

The FCA’s director of supervision, Clive Adamson, commented:

“Our review found that they were not meeting our requirements in delivering fair and consistent outcomes for consumers. We also found, through our consumer research, that consumers had a number of misconceptions about the services they provided.”

Head of Ask Insurance, Amanda Smith, agrees:

“It is easy for consumers to get drawn in by the low quotes and cuddly collectables given by online comparison sites. Especially, in the current climate, when families are working within limited budgets.

The idea behind them is based on the old fashioned insurance broker, who would take the customers information search a panel of providers with a view to find the most suitable product for the clients circumstances within their price range.

With the uprising of comparison sites consumers thinking they can do this for themselves often come unstuck when they try to make a claim. It is at this point they discover, to their cost, that the policy doesn’t provide the cover they thought. Or the policy has been loaded with large excesses, or a deferred waiting period. Sadly, at this point it is too late and what the consumer may have saved does not equal what they have now lost.

Having the right cover is always important especially when considering Life Assurance. Many people think they can get cheaper cover from comparison sites, discovering you have unknowingly chosen the wrong cover, at the point you’ve lost a loved one can be traumatic.

A professional qualified adviser can provide details of the most suitable policy based on price whilst making them aware of any exclusions and/or limitations.”

Backlog in benefits department over Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) leaves thousands awaiting support

Posted by Jack Boardman on

Over 700,000 people are waiting for ESA due to a benefits backlog. The announcement came at the end of June, 2014, with the Minister for Disabled People blaming the delays on Atos, who are contracted to carry out the fitness to work tests.

The Department for Work and Pensions said:

“Incapacity Benefit reassessment has resulted in over 700,000 people looking for, or making steps to return to work – it is crucial that we continue this important process to ensure that people are not written off and we get a fair deal for the taxpayer.”

"Unless ministers make changes to how assessments are carried out then sick and disabled people face another three years of delays, anxiety and unfair treatment."

“Unless ministers make changes to how assessments are carried out then sick and disabled people face another three years of delays, anxiety and unfair treatment.”

The Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit that offers financial support if you’re unable to work, and also personalised help so that you can work. Those on Income Support or Incapacity Benefit may be transferred to the ESA. It is available if you’re employed, self-employed or unemployed. Claimants must go through a work capability assessment in order for the allowance to be assessed. The backlog stood at 712,000 people, with 394,000 of these new claimants, and 234,000 existing recipients of the benefit. 84,000 people are on Incapacity Benefit, waiting to be transferred to ESA.

Atos, who are responsible for the work capability assessment, consider themselves “vilified” for doing as instructed by Parliament. Atos’s contract has been ended early with a new contractor to be appointed in 2015.
Citizens Advice commented:

“Employment Support Allowance is now the biggest single issue that Citizens Advice clients need help with and more than 1.5 million people have come to us about problems with ESA since it was introduced.
“Unless ministers make changes to how assessments are carried out then sick and disabled people face another three years of delays, anxiety and unfair treatment.”


The Cost of ESA

According to the BBC, internal government memos have revealed that claimants face an average waiting time of 9 months after assessments, and that positive outcomes of the benefit are few, with less claimants getting jobs.

Nearly 2 million people currently claim ESA, entitled to just over £100 per week. By 2018/19 the costs of the benefit are expected to rise by approximately £13 billion, calling it “one of the largest fiscal risks currently facing the government.”

On the costs, Mr Penning, Minister for Disabled People, said:

“It needs to evolve, it needs to change as we go forward and we need to make sure we get the right decisions – as in any other benefit – the right money goes to the right people and that’s what the taxpayer would expect us to do.”

Harrington Brooks takes a holistic approach to helping our clients repay their debts. An important part of our service is ensuring all clients are in full receipt of all State Benefits and Tax Credits to which they are entitled. If you are a Harrington Brooks customer and have had a change in circumstances since your last review, which you think may impact your benefit or tax credit entitlement, then please Call Customer Support on 0330 102 0004 or use the form below to request a call back.

HB Asks: What effects will the FCA’s cap on payday loans have?

Posted by Jack Boardman on

As the FCA announces a series of proposed measures aimed at restricting the costs to consumers of payday loans; Harrington Brooks ponders that while the FCA’s intention is to protect the consumer; the law of unforeseen consequences may paint a different picture.

View Proposals for a price cap on high-cost short-term credit on FCA website.

If, according to the FCA stats released at the same time as yesterdays news about the proposed cap on payday lending, the average loan has a principal of around £260 lent over an initial duration of 30 days – where will borrowers get the additional £160 from?

And if the typical customer has no savings, 57%, a lower than average income level of £16,500 verses £26,500 per year and 64% have outstanding debt from other types of lenders, 36% have borrowed from family, 18% from friends – then where do they turn?

If it is the case that 55% said they used their loans for everyday expenditure (housing, basic living costs and bills) then what will they do? What alternatives are there?

The FCA have a very hard task facing them, and one which is bound to raise criticisms, but at least, it seems, they went in to making these changes with a raft of evidence and research behind them.

. The FCA have a very hard task facing them, and one which is bound to raise criticisms, but at least, it seems, they went in to making these changes with a raft of evidence and research behind them.

In the findings, 20% said they used their pay day loan for discretionary spending such as holidays, social activities, weddings and gifts – then should they just do without? Are these necessities? Who decides?

The FCA have a very hard task facing them, and one which is bound to raise criticisms, but at least, it seems, they went in to making these changes with a raft of evidence and research behind them. The FCA carried out unprecedented levels of research which involved:

  • building models of 8 firms and 16 million loans to analyse the impact on firms and consumers post-cap
  • analysing credit records for 4.6m people to understand the alternatives people turn to when they don’t get payday loans and whether they are better or worse off
  • a survey of 2000 consumers that use payday firms to understand the impact on people who don’t get past the approval process and those who do get loans
  • liaising with overseas regulators that also use a cap and reviewing existing research
  • discussions with industry and consumer groups

Improvements Since Regulation

It’s easy to see where the FCA have made obvious improvements. Since it took over regulation of consumer credit the FCA has strongly encouraged firms and credit reference agencies to improve the way they share information about consumers, so firms can be sure that the information they use in their affordability assessments is up-to-date and accurate. Effective real-time data sharing should enable firms to address the issue of consumers taking out multiple high-cost short-term loans from different providers at the same time that they are unable to afford.

The FCA expects to see evidence of a significant increase in firms participating in real-time data sharing by November, and better coverage by real-time databases. If we do not see the level of progress we require, we will consult on the introduction of data-sharing requirements.

Impact on Debt Resolution Sector

And finally, what effect will this have on Harrington Brooks and the debt management sector?

Well, 47% of Harrington Brooks customers have payday loans, typically 3 and with different lenders, so it’s likely that we’ll see a change in the formation of customers debt, however the FCA did also include in their report about financial distress. Since applying for a loan, 50% reported experiencing financial distress and 44% missed at least one bill payment suggesting that these people do need help to manage not just pay day loan debts, but a range of others too.

Payday Rates Slashed by FCA: New Regulations Means Protection for Consumers from Payday Lenders

Posted by Jack Boardman on

The Financial Conduct Authority has proposed a cap on payday lending with a consumer-centric focus, meaning the amount that high-cost short-term credit lenders can charge will be significantly lower.

From January, 2015, the regulation will mean that consumers will never pay back more than twice what they have borrowed. A cap will be placed on interest and fees at 0.8% of the amount borrowed per day, the total cost limited to 100% of the loan, and defaults or arrears fees capped at £15.

Securing protection for consumers: New regulations on payday lenders aim to protect consumers from spiralling debt and unaffordable loans.

Securing protection for consumers: New regulations on payday lenders aim to protect consumers from spiralling debt and unaffordable loans.


Price caps for payday lenders

The changes are in keeping with the government’s campaign on tackling the downward spiral of debt in the UK. High-cost short-term creditors, in particular pay day loans, have become considerably more prominent in recent years, and are seen by consumers as a quick and easy solution to financial management; the reality being that, by taking out such a loan, consumers face a lowered credit rating, with fees and potential interest rates of 4,000%, resulting in a spiral of catching up on further debt.

The FCA took over the regulation of approximately 50,000 consumer credit firms from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in April, 2014. The FCA’s objectives from the beginning have been to secure protection for consumers, promoting effective competition in the interests of consumers, and ultimately enhancing the integrity of the UK financial system.


Encouraging a consumer-centric approach

It is anticipated that the new regulations will half the market supply. Recent research conducted by Harrington Brooks revealed that 45% of our customer base have pay day loans, and each of the customers have an average of 3 loans, mostly with different lenders.

From December, 2014, payday lenders will need to make changes in keeping with the consumer-centric regulations, with the FCA ensuring companies are “treating consumers fairly and following the new rules; particular attention will be paid to whether or not firms are trying to avoid the price cap. Firms that do not meet the required standard will not be allowed to carry on offering payday loans.”

CEO of Harrington Brooks, Matthew Cheetham, stated,

“I welcome the capping of the interest on payday loans. Just under half of Harrington Brooks customers have a payday loan as one of their creditors, so anything which reduces the cost to them is welcomed”.


“Confident we have found the right balance”

The proposal comes as the result of extensive research, on the FCA’s part, in understanding the market and the consumers that use it. The new caps on loans have been designed to protect consumers against spiralling debt and unaffordable loans, and also to allow payday lenders to continue lending to borrowers who may benefit from it.

According to the proposal, this research involved:

  • building models of 8 firms and 16 million loans to analyse the impact on firms and consumers post-cap
  • analysing credit records for 4.6m people to understand the alternatives people turn to when they don’t get payday loans and whether they are better or worse off
  • a survey of 2000 consumers that use payday firms to understand the impact on people who don’t get past the approval process and those who do get loans
  • liaising with overseas regulators that also use a cap and reviewing existing research
  • discussions with industry and consumer groups

The finalised rules are to be published in November, 2014 so that affected companies have time to make changes in keeping regulations.

Martin Wheatley, CEO of he FCA, said:

“For the many people that struggle to repay their payday loans every year this is a giant leap forward. From January next year, if you borrow £100 for 30 days and pay back on time, you will not pay more than £24 in fees and charges and someone taking the same loan for 14 days will pay no more than £11.20. That’s a significant saving.
“For those who struggle with their repayments, we are ensuring that someone borrowing £100 will never pay back more than £200 in any circumstance.

“There have been many strong and competing views to take into account, but I am confident we have found the right balance.

“Alongside our other new rules for payday firms – affordability tests and limits on rollovers and continuous payment authorities – the cap will help drive up standards in a sector that badly needs to improve how it treats its customers.”

Government’s NEA Scheme Helps 2,000 Aspiring Entrepreneurs A Month Get Off Benefits

Posted by Jack Boardman on

The government published recent figures revealing 46,000 businesses have been set up so far through the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA).

Key findings highlight that 93,880 starts have been made with people beginning work with a business mentor. The aforementioned 46,000 have progressed to receiving the weekly allowance since the scheme was implemented in April, 2011.

NEA: Supporting budding entrepreneurs on JSA and benefits.

NEA: Supporting budding entrepreneurs on JSA and benefits.

Of those receiving NEA, 8,590 are registered disabled, with 18,630 working with business mentors. 32,030 people are claiming the weekly allowance, aged 25-49, with 3,370 aged 18-24 and 10,610 over the age of 50.

What do you know about the NEA, and could it apply to you?

The NEA was set up in April 2011 by the government to support small businesses and enterprise. It offers financial support to people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, benefits, lone parents and people on sickness benefits wishing to start up their own business.

Participants on the NEA scheme receive expert support and guidance from an assigned business mentor who offers help along the journey of developing individuals’ ideas into a business plan. If approved, the participant becomes eligible for the weekly allowance over a period of 26 weeks up to a total of £1,274. Participants can also access a loan through the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills start-up loan scheme.

Government Launch Child Poverty Strategy

Posted by Jack Boardman on

On 26th June, 2014the government published their Child Poverty Strategy, aiming to end child poverty by 2020 by “breaking the cycle of disadvantage based on the principle that where someone starts in life should not determine where they end up.”

The newly-published strategy follows the government’s publication from 2011, A New Approach to Child Poverty: Tackling the Causes of Disadvantage and Transforming Families’ Lives, which was the government’s first Child Poverty Strategy, setting out a new approach to tackling poverty and securing social justice.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:

“This strategy outlines our commitment to tackling the root causes of poverty and delivering lasting change that makes a real difference to children’s life chances.
“Despite tough economic times over the last few years, we’ve introduced reforms to the welfare system that are transforming the lives of the most vulnerable in our society. As part of the government’s long-term economic plan we are supporting more families into work, improving living standards and raising educational attainment.
“Work remains the best route out of poverty and with the economy now growing again we have more people in work than ever before, as well as fewer children in workless households than at any time since records began. These children now not only have a wage-earner in the household, but perhaps even more importantly, they also have a role model to look up to.”

The Child Poverty Action group proclaimed the figures for children in poverty rose from 3.6million to 4.1million from 2011 to 2013. Trade Union Congress secretary General Frances O’Grady stated:

“While wages have stagnated, and benefits and tax credits have been cut, prices have been rising – especially the cost of housing.

“Since the last election a million more adults and half a million more children fell into absolute poverty when housing costs are taken into account. Without a major affordable home building program and action to secure fair wages, this type of poverty will continue to grow.”

What’s been done?

  • Since 2010, employment has increased by almost 1.7million with record numbers of people in work.
  • The number of children in workless households has decreased by 290,000.
  • There has been a 7% increase in poor children achieving 5 good GCSEs including English and maths increasing from 31%.
child poverty shoes

“It is impossible to overstate the impact poverty can have on a child’s education.” – David Laws, Schools Minister.

Of the progress since 2010, David Laws, Schools Minister, said,

“It is impossible to overstate the impact poverty can have on a child’s education.
“I am proud of the progress we have already made – investing £3.75 billion in the Pupil Premium, being used by schools to close the attainment gap and we have now extended the Pupil Premium to 3 and 4 year olds. In addition, from September all infant school children will receive a healthy meal for free, to make sure they are ready to learn and can get the most from their time at school.
“Poorer children are doing better than ever at school but still more than 6 out of 10 still fail to secure good grades. We are determined to improve the prospects of all children so that they have the best possible opportunities later in life.”

What are they planning to do?

The following actions are set out in the strategy to tackle child poverty over the next three years.

Supporting families into work by:

  • helping businesses to create jobs
  • helping people to take up work through Jobcentre Plus and schemes such as the Work Programme and the Troubled Families Programme
  • making work pay and having clearer work incentives through introducing Universal Credit, with more help for childcare
  • tackling low pay by raising the minimum wage and the personal tax allowance, continuing to lift low-income families out of the tax system
  • helping people move on to better jobs and improving the qualifications of parents through adult apprenticeships, investing in English and maths and helping parents through the National Careers Service

    Reducing costs to support people’s living standards by:

  • reducing energy, extending the Warm Home Discount and helping people to make their homes more energy efficient
  • capping the bills of low-income families with 3 or more children on a water meter and promoting social tariffs
  • reducing food costs for low-income families through introducing free school meals for all infant school pupils alongside Healthy Start Vouchers for young children, breakfast clubs in deprived areas, and free fruit and vegetables at school for primary school children
  • reducing transport costs for low-income families
  • increasing access to affordable credit for low income families through expanding credit unions

    Raising educational attainment by:

  • increasing the number of poor children getting quality pre-school education
  • introducing an Early Years Pupil Premium to help ensure 3 and 4 year olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds get the best start in life
  • ensuring poor children do better at school by giving disadvantaged pupils an additional £14,000 throughout their school career – a £2.5 billion a year commitment through the Pupil Premium
  • supporting poor children to stay in education post-16 through training, apprenticeships, and better careers advice
  • helping parents provide the best possible home environment by supporting parenting classes and providing free books to poor families
  • helping parents who experience mental health issues, investing in drug and alcohol dependency treatment and supporting young carers
  • increasing support for children with Special Educational Needs

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, stated,

“Today’s child poverty statistics highlight the inconvenient truths for the government that maintaining the value of social security support helps protect families with children from poverty and that work isn’t working for far too many families.
“Child poverty already costs Britain £29 billion a year,” she said. “It’s good to hear that the government says it is sticking to its promise to end child poverty but its strategy simply isn’t delivering. We need actions that improve the childhoods and life chances of poorer children, not just words.”

Harrington Brooks IVA Shortlisted For Personal Insolvency Firm of the Year Award

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

The Harrington Brooks IVA department has been shortlisted by the Insolvency & Rescue Awards 2014 panel, for the title of Personal Insolvency Firm of the Year. The awards received a record breaking 750 entries, with the awards ceremony to be held in London on 1st October.


Above, our IVA management team with Insolvency Practitioners David Rankin (stripy tie) and Samantha Warburton (far right).

Harrington Brooks arranged more new IVAs than any other provider in the past 12 months by some distance – a massive 10,000 plus; that’s about 1 in 5 or all new IVAs – so expectation of recognition is high.

Reasons for this are many and include:-

  • Due to our scale of operation and efficient systems, being able to offer IVAs at lower monthly contributions and lower debt levels than many other IVA providers.
  • The purchase of debt management back-books (client bases) from other debt management companies and offering many of these customers the opportunity of an IVA, which they were previously denied.
  • Best in class IT systems that make us a natural parter for major affiliates and introducers.
  • An overall great customer experience that has resulted in a hugely positive on-line sentiment; with almost 1,000 on-line reviews for the Harrington Brooks IVA team and a further 700 reviews for second trading style DebtFree.co.uk all achieved in the past 2 years.
  • Embracing FCA regulation for the benefit of our business and customers alike.

We are very proud of the customer centric approach we apply to the services we provide, and are thrilled to be shortlisted by such a prestigious industry body. We have launched a number of initiatives this year which we feel have demonstrated our commitment to excellent customer service, putting the customer at the heart of all that we do.

In the last 12 months, we launched our Online Webchat tool, allowing our customers real-time interaction with advisers to discuss any aspect of their plan and debts. Plus, we have also introduced 0330 numbers, reducing call costs for customers.

We recently held focus groups with our customers. Within those, we were praised for our freepost envelope service, as well as for our planned introduction of call queuing management software, which will allow customers to hold in a virtual queue or set a time for us to call them back instead of waiting on hold. All our customers agreed that it would be a positive service of great benefit.

If you are struggling with your finances and feel you could benefit from some advice from the UK’s market leader in new IVAs, then contact our advisers today 0800 048 1764 and check out how we can help at harringtonbrooks.co.uk/iva.

Improvements in creditor response times under new FCA regime

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

Harrington Brooks reports significant changes in creditor behaviour since the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) began their new regime and also outlines plans for a smoother working relationship with the creditor community.

Our credit relations team ensure we have strong levels of trust and co-operation with creditors.

Our credit relations team ensure we have strong levels of trust and co-operation with creditors.

Since the advent of changes in the regulation of the consumer credit sector on 1 April 2014, we have found there to be a noticeable shortening of response times from creditors, especially smaller companies. Some are still lagging behind FCA guidance on turnaround times, which makes the job and responsibility of the credit relations team even more important.

Each month we manage more than £920 million of unsecured debts for over 75,000 customers and distribute £7.6 million to creditors, on behalf of our customers. With 64% of unsecured debt being written off at the end of an IVA and 89% of creditors freezing interest and charges (% by value of debt), it’s easy to see why having close relationships with creditors is so important to Harrington Brooks’ customer base.

The interests of the customer are the focus of the new regulations.

The interests of the customer are the focus of the new regulations.


With experience and regular analysis of the data exchanges, we ensure that potential issues are spotted and rectified quickly. Creditors trust the systems, service and delivery of information that we supply, to the extent that in the past they have asked us to pilot new ways of doing things, and then rolled these out successfully to the wider debt resolution community.

In the future we are looking to develop a “creditor portal” in the interests of processing transactions accurately at even faster speeds. In effect, every time we issue a notification of intended financial management plan it would be performed as a paperless data exchange, giving creditors increased security and access to information 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

Darryl Matthews, Group Head of External Relations, said:

“As a team Harrington Brooks are passionate about the service we supply to creditors and customers. Our relationships with creditors are at an all-time high, and we have earned respect by investing time and energy. By participating consistently within important industry forums we have also challenged other bodies, processes and perceptions.

“We can already see improvements as a result of FCA regulation and there’s now even more focus for creditors to work with Harrington Brooks to take on board the customer agenda as well as their own. This focus has given us even more impetus to push for future enhancements, to ensure that we get the best outcome for our customers.”

If you are finding it difficult to pay your debts, or are struggling with contact and pressure from creditors, give our friendly advisers a call today. 

How to Revamp Your Home on a Budget

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

If you want to increase the appeal of your home, for yourself or a prospective buyer, there are plenty of ways to do it without breaking the bank. Here are our top tips for making the most of your home with minimal cost.

De-Clutter & Clean

iStock_000001427072Small

Multi-use furniture, like this table and storage unit, are a stylish way to keep your home tidy.

It’s amazing what a ruthless spring clean can do to the look of your home. Collect together everything you don’t want and either bin it, donate it or sell it at a car boot sale or online to make some extra money. Then do a deep clean of the house – every nook and cranny. It’s amazing how much fresher your house will feel.

If you’re tight on space, invest in some multi-purpose furniture and storage pieces. Coffee tables, stools and under bed space are all great ways to store your essentials.

Use small amounts of wallpaper for maximum impact

Wallpaper can be expensive, but by decorating one wall you can breathe new life into a room, as well as reduce the risk of over-doing it. Pick something bright and detailed that goes with the walls you already have.

Any leftover wallpaper can be used to spruce up the backs of shelving units, which will help combine the style of the house throughout different rooms. You can also frame swatches of your wallpaper to maximise the effect of your feature wall, or bring the style to a smaller room, such as the bathroom.

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Bright colours can make plainer rooms pop.

Re-style cushions or pillows

You can buy interesting and stylish fabric relatively cheaply from market stalls and haberdashery shops
– you could even use cute tea towels if you wanted. Use these to modernise your old cushions and pillows. If you don’t know how, there are plenty of sewing how-to guides on the internet.

Sand and Repaint Shabby Furniture

Furniture that has seen better days can be brought back to life by sanding and repainting. You could go for a bright colour if your room needs livening up, or use a whitewash effect for a fashionable vintage feel.

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A lick of paint can make your house stand out immediately.

Use Radiator Covers

Hide unsightly radiators with wooden radiator covers, which can also double as a display unit for books or CDs.

Re-arrange your furniture

Is your layout making the best use of the space you’ve got? Move around the furniture in the rooms you want to revamp and see if there is a better way to arrange things.

Jazz up your front door

Your front door is the first thing you see when you get home – paint it a bright and welcoming colour, hunt out an interesting knocker online, buy some attractive house numbers or get a nice new doormat.

Use the Stairs

Stripping and repainting your stairs can make them appear fresh again or turn them into a statement feature in your home.

Make sure you use any space under the stairs – turn it into a bookcase, display shelves, shoe racks or coat storage.

Peach and yellow bulbs can make a room look cosy and inviting.

Peach and yellow bulbs can make a room look cosy and inviting.

Get creative with lighting

The lights in your home can have a huge effect on the way you view each room. Use peach or yellow bulbs in your bedroom for a nice soft glow, or create an interesting table lamp by filling a jug with old Christmas or fairy lights.

Having dimmer lights installed also easily allows you to control the mood and atmosphere of your home.

Placing a mirror on the wall opposite a window will reflect and maximise the light in a room.

Replace single ceiling bulbs with a directional lights on a track, to highlight the best features in your room, or floor lights that shine upwards to make your room feel as tall as possible.

Sometimes, a little investment can go a long way in raising the value of your home – both financially, and in terms of the enjoyment you get out of your property. If you feel it’s time for an extension, new kitchen or bathroom or any other larger project but you need extra funds, call Ask Finance . Their friendly, professional advisers will assess your circumstances and find a secured loan for all your home improvement needs.