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Rise in number of people suffering from debt in the south

There's a rise in the number of people in the ITV News Meridian region who are struggling with debt.

Charities say they are helping an increasing number of families or individuals who're desperate for help.

Despite this, the benefit cap is lowering the amount of payments some families can claim by £6,000 a year.

Universal credit, the monthly living allowance, can initially take more than a week to process although advances are available.

And an assessment to receive Personal Independence Payment - or PIP - is replacing the previous test for disability living allowance.

ITV News spoke to Beth Farhat from the Trade Union Congress (TUC),

Debt advice demand is highest this month

Citizens Advice Carlisle & Eden (CACE) expect this week to be their busiest for advice on debt.

Analysis by the national charity shows that the demand for money and debt advice is highest in the country in January and February.

Here are a few tips from CACE to help you stay on top of your finances this year:

  • Do a simple budget: Write down your income and take away essential bills like gas and electric, food and transport.
  • If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save. If you don’t, look at ways to cut your costs.
  • Save money on essentials: Diarise the dates of annual contracts that are up for renewal, like your mobile phone or car insurance, and use a comparison site to see if you can get a cheaper deal.
  • You could save an average of £300 on your energy bill by changing tariffs or suppliers.
  • Check you're claiming the right benefits: If you have a family or are married, check if you can apply for working tax credits or marriage tax allowance on gov.co.uk.
  • If you live alone, you may be entitled to a discount on your council tax bill.
  • Start saving: It doesn’t matter if it’s 50p or £5 a week, every penny will help improve your finances. Saving is an important part of everyday finances, giving you a buffer for emergencies, helping you buy bigger items and giving you more financial security for the future.
  • Keep tabs on your overdraft: Sign up to free text alerts from your bank so you know when you’re close to going into your overdraft. Then make adjustments to your spending if you can.
  • Be choosey about your borrowing: If you need to borrow money, it’s important to know that there are different offers with credit cards and loans, from free balance transfers to paying no interest for the first few months.
  • Get your debts in order: If you can’t pay all your debts at once, it’s important to prioritise. Rent or mortgage and council tax are more important than credit card debts for example, as the consequences can be more serious if you don't pay.
  • Invest in your future: Pensions are a great way to save for the future and are also good value, as your contributions are topped up by your employer and the government.
  • If you’re eligible for auto-enrolment, consider paying more than just the minimum. Those who are self-employed can still set up their own pension but make sure it’s with a regulated company.
  • If you’re over 50 and have a defined contribution pension you can get free a Pension Wise appointment to learn more about taking your pension.

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Thousands missing out on 'game changing' MRI tests for prostate cancer, charity says

More than 7,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the south east - and more than 1,500 will die from the disease.

Credit: ITV Meridian

Now a new pain-free test, pioneered in the south, is using MRI scanners to help detect the worse tumours.

But so far only around half of the UK's hospitals are offering it - with Medway and Southend among those missing out.

Andy Dickenson reports and speaks to Chris Kitcher, Dr Jonathan Richenberg of the Royal Sussex County Hospital, and Angela Culhane of Prostate Cancer UK.

Campaigners continue fight to stop NHS cuts

Campaigners have previously protested in Brighton Credit: ITV Meridian

Campaigners in Brighton are planning their next move in their fight to stop the government making cuts to the NHS.

More than 1,000 people have already taken to Brighton's streets defending the service.

The government says it's spending record sums to meet 'unprecedented demand'.

A public meeting will be held on 16th February in Kemptown to discuss further action.

MP Caroline Lucas is set to attend along with the national head of health at the Unite union, among others.

One year in - inside the 19th century hospital at centre of half a billion pound redesign

The Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton contains some of the oldest buildings in the NHS, dating back almost two hundred years.

It is now the centre of one of the most expensive redesigns in the country - costing nearly half a billion pounds. But while eight years of work goes on patients have to be looked after as normal.

So, with the first twelve months completed, Andy Dickenson went to see how doctors, nurses and patients were getting on. He speaks to clinical director Peter Larsen-Disney, patient Geoffrey Price and ward manager Zingy Thetho.

Father's school holiday fine battle reaches the Supreme Court

Hampshire father Jon Platt successfully challenged his £120 fine at the High Court Credit: ITV

The Supreme Court is set to make a decision on whether councils can legally fine parents for taking children out of school for holidays during term time.

The case involves Hampshire father, Jon Platt, who successfully challenged his £120 fine at the High Court. Platt had received the fine for taking his daughter on an 'unauthorised' holiday during term time.

Isle of Wight council says the case raises important issues for schools and councils up and down the country.

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University of Oxford to develop diabetes research

Credit: ITV Meridian

The University of Oxford is to collaborate with a global healthcare company to develop its research into type 2 diabetes.

The joint venture with Novo Nordisk will focus on treatments for the condition.

The company will invest over £1 million over 10 years building a new research centre at the site which will employ 100 people.

Petition to save local charity hits 10,000 signatures

The Sussex Beacon could close if funding is cut Credit: ITV news

Over 10,000 people have signed a petition asking the Government to save a local HIV charity in Sussex.

The Sussex Beacon is place where people living with the virus are given specialist support and care.

It costs over £2 million a year to run but cannot continue with the prospect of budget cuts.

One of the places within Sussex Beacon can seek sanctuary Credit: ITV news

Since we announced that these funding cuts are threatening our services, we've had an outpouring of support, which we're incredibly grateful for. Service users, colleagues in the health and HIV sectors, MPs and local people have given us their backing as we try and find a way to keep our services open

– Simon Dowe, Chief Executive of The Sussex Beacon

Sign of the times - Churchill, Kipling and Picasso amongst the stars in extraordinary autograph auction

An extraordinary collection of autographs and signatures from some of the most iconic figures in history will go on sale tomorrow in Sussex.

In total more than a thousand hand written scrawls from Prime Ministers, Kings, Queens, military and literary heroes will be auctioned.

Between them they cover four centuries - but the collection itself came as a complete surprise, as Andy Dickenson discovered when he spoke to auctioneer Paul Campbell.

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