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Author Archives: Oliver Domleo

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CAB News 24 September 2021

Friday 24 September 2021

The crisis in the energy market is continuing to dominate the news. We’ve been providing advice to worried customers and calling to stop the cut to Universal Credit as households face a difficult winter.

National

Energy

Gas firms may face windfall tax as energy crisis hits households

The Guardian, 22/09/2021, p1, Jillian Ambrose (also The Times (£), FT (£), Independent, Mirror and more)

Another two energy suppliers collapsed yesterday, affecting almost 1.5 million customers. We issued a statement from our Head of Energy Policy Gillian Cooper: “These latest failures will add to people’s worries at what’s already an extremely unsettling time. Supplier collapses and rocketing energy prices, combined with the looming cut to Universal Credit, are creating huge amounts of uncertainty for millions of people.”

Dame Clare Moriarty was on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme  (listen from 1hr 15 mins) this morning, offering advice for people being moved to new suppliers. Our Head of Future Energy Services, Dhara Vyas, went live on the BBC News channel last night and joined a Sky News panel earlier in the week, answering questions from the public.

LCAs across the country have been getting great media coverage, including Citizens Advice Dorset. Energy Specialist, Laura Wilcox, went on BBC Radio Solent’s drivetime show (listen from 16:38) offering advice on what to do if your energy supplier goes bust.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit cut will see ‘600,000 workers struggling to afford food’

ITV News Online, 23/09/2021, (also Evening Standard, Independent, Mirror and dozens of regional outlets thanks to a PA news wire write up)

Our research looked at the impact of the £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit on working people. It showed 1.5 million would be tipped into hardship with 600,000 unable to afford food and other basic essentials. The story was covered in a wide range of national media. Dame Clare Moriarty said: “With energy bills set to rise and family finances already stretched to the limit, this cut is coming at the worst possible time.”

Energy

Will your energy bills rise and why is there a gas shortage?

20/09/2021

It was a big day in energy news with multiple suppliers warning they faced going under due to rising costs and gas shortages.

Gillian Cooper, Head of Energy Policy gave advice on what to do if your supplier fails. It was included in the BBC, Metro, Daily Express, and Telegraph.

We warned of a perfect storm coming this winter for households on a low income, our statement urging government to keep the £20 Universal credit increase was included in the Mirror and Independent.

National and a number of local Citizens Advice conducted broadcast interviews offering more information on the issue.

Alex Belsham-Harris Principal Policy Manager spoke to BBC for the 8 o’clock news. He said “don’t panic, you’ll still get your energy supply…take a meter reading and keep up with your bills.”

Rob Palmizi spoke to Newyddion S4C about the implications for Welsh energy customers, and Dame Clare Moriarty spoke on the BBC News at 6 (4 minutes 30 seconds in) to offer advice on what to do if your supplier fails.

On the radio Dhara Vyas Head of Future Energy Services spoke to Radio 4 (8 minutes 30 seconds in) about the implications for low income families and why keeping the £20 increase to Universal Credit was vital. Head of Policy and Campaigns at Citizens Advice Cymru Rhiannon Evans spoke to BBC Radio Wales (1 hour 7 minutes in) saying “the single best thing the government can do to help people is scrap the cut to Universal Credit.”

Citizens Advice Leighton-Linslade spoke to BBC Radio Three Counties (15 minutes 50 seconds) advising what customers should do if their supplier goes bust, and warned about the perfect storm coming as a result of cold weather, the end of the furlough scheme and the cut to Universal Credit.


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Universal Credit cut: Everything you need to know

Universal Credit claimants unaware of looming cuts - Citizens Advice issue guidance | Personal Finance | Finance | Express.co.uk

Friday 13 August 2021

Over the coming weeks, people claiming Universal Credit will receive notifications about a cut to their benefits this autumn. Benefits experts at Citizens Advice, which is campaigning against the cut, set out what this means for claimants.

When will the cut happen?

As it stands, the government is set to slash benefits by £20 a week – equivalent to £1,040 a year – from 6 October. The exact date  people will see the cut kick in will depend on the day they get their Universal Credit payment. For many, this means September will be the last month they see their benefits paid at existing levels.

How many people will be affected?

If plans go ahead, the cut will hit nearly six million people on Universal Credit. More than a third (38%) of those who’ll see their income hit are already in employment, while one in six (16%) are under 25. Latest figures show roughly 1.9 million families with children will see their benefits cut.

Regions that will see the biggest proportion of residents hit by the cut are London and the North East.

How much could I lose?

While every Universal Credit claim will drop by around £85 a month, the proportion of income claimants will lose will vary depending on their circumstances. Single people under 25 are set to be hit by the biggest drop.

Monthly standard allowances will drop:

  • By a quarter for single claimants under 25, from £344 to £257.33

  • By a fifth for single claimants over 25, from £411.51 to £324.84

  • By 17% for joint claimants under 25, from £490.60 to £403.93

  • By 14% for joint claimants over 25, from £596.58 to £509.91

Previous analysis by Citizens Advice shows £20 a week is equivalent to six days of energy costs or three days of food costs for a low-income family.

What support is available if I’m worried about my income?

You’re not alone and there is support available. Everyone’s situation is different so it’s important to seek independent help from somewhere like Citizens Advice. Depending on your circumstances, this could include:

  • A benefits check. This will help you verify you’re getting all the support you’re entitled to. You can use an online calculator or contact your local Citizens Advice.

  • Support with essential costs. You can contact your local council to see if they can give you any extra help from a hardship fund, including food or essential things like clothes. Check your local council on GOV.UK.

  • Help with debt. Some bills can cause you more problems than others if you don’t pay them. Rent or mortgage arrears, energy bills and council tax are your priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. Citizens Advice can provide guidance if you’re struggling with bills.

  • Free school meals. If you have children and you get certain benefits, you might be able to get free school meals for your children.

  • Food bank vouchers. If you can’t afford the food you can ask for a referral from Citizens Advice or an organisation that’s already supporting you – for example, a charity, school or children’s centre – for a food bank voucher.

Kate Green, Senior Benefits Expert at Citizens Advice, said:

“Many people seeking our advice at the moment are unaware of an impending cut to their Universal Credit. Understandably, when they realise their benefits are set to drop by £20 a week it causes a lot of anxiety.

“If you’re in this position, remember you are not alone and there is support available. As a first step, make sure you’re checking your online journal regularly so you know how much your benefits will reduce by and when.

“Citizens Advice is on hand to help you understand what the cut means and what you can do if you’re worried about making ends meet.”

Morgan Wild, Head of Policy at Citizens Advice, said:

“More than half a million people have come to Citizens Advice for support with Universal Credit since the pandemic. We know the extra £20 a week has often meant the difference between empty cupboards and food on the table.

“The government should do the right thing and keep this vital lifeline. It’s the best way of making good on its ‘levelling up’ promise and supporting households to recover from this crisis.”


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Back to the workplace: Your rights if you’ve been working from home

Ministers look to hybrid working after Covid rules are relaxed on 19 July

Friday 16 July 2021

With guidance to work from home set to end in England from 19 July, Citizens Advice sets out your need to knows if you’re asked to return to your normal workplace.

I’ve been working from home, can my employer ask me to return to my normal workplace?

The short answer is yes. When you enter into a contract to work for an employer you have to comply with ‘reasonable management requests’. That means your employer can ask you to return to your normal workplace if your original contract specified that you would be office-based or based elsewhere.

In practice, many employers are looking into or actively encouraging a blended working model – some time at home – some time in the office/workplace.

You can ask to keep working from home, but that doesn’t mean your employer has to agree. Start by having an open conversation with your employer about your wishes, and consider making a flexible working request, which is a legal right all employees have. You can include your reasons why working from home is better for you and will also help the business.

What can I do if I’m worried about safety measures at work?

Your employer has a legal duty under the law, and under your contract, to ensure that your workplace does not pose a risk to your health and safety. Current guidance says employers should complete a Covid risk assessment and take steps to prevent transmission, including frequent cleaning and social distancing. This is due to be updated.

While wearing a mask in an enclosed space will no longer be mandatory, employers will still be free to set their own policies or rules in place to require workers or customers to wear masks.

If you are unhappy with safety measures at your workplace, you could report your employer to the Health and Safety Executive, but ideally you and your employer can solve the issues together.

I’m uncomfortable about taking public transport, what are my options?

Your employer’s duty is limited to things that are under its control, and so there is no clear legal position about whether it has to take into account the risks you face when travelling to and from work, as part of its health and safety assessment.

That said, your employer should listen to your concerns if you’re worried about having to use public transport after being called back into work. You could reach an arrangement that you’re comfortable with, for example, asking to travel at quieter times of the day.

What happens if I need to self-isolate?

You shouldn’t go into work if you’re self-isolating because you have coronavirus symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

You must tell your employer that you have to self-isolate. It’s worth telling them in writing so you have a record for later use.

If you’re unable to work from home, you may be entitled to benefits, sick pay or a self-isolation payment of £500 from your local council. If you’ve been furloughed before by your employer, you might also be able to furlough you for the period you need to self-isolate. See the Citizens Advice website for more information.

Remember that the rules on self-isolating are changing. From 16 August, if you’ve had your second vaccination, you won’t need to self-isolate if you have been in contact with someone who’s tested positive for coronavirus. If you have symptoms you’ll need to self-isolate until you get tested.

Matthew Bradbury, Employment Expert at Citizens Advice, said:

“With restrictions ending and workplaces reopening, people will understandably have questions about their rights. While you can ask to continue working from home, your employer doesn’t have to agree.

“If you have any concerns, it’s important to talk with your employer as soon as possible so that you can reach a solution that works for both of you.

“For more information visit the Citizens Advice website, and if you need one-to-one help contact your nearest Citizens Advice. ”