CAB News 20 September 2019

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CAB News 20 September 2019

Friday 20 September 2019

New research from Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trussell Trust highlights the financial difficulties faced by people during the 5-week wait for Universal Credit.

Universal Credit

Food bank demand surges in areas where people have received universal credit for longest, figures show

The Independent, 19/09/2019, May Bulman

Demand for food banks has surged in areas where families have been relying on universal credit the longest, figures show.

Regions that were first to switch to the new benefit two years ago have seen a rise in demand for emergency food packages of nearly 50 per cent, according to the Trussell Trust, the largest UK food bank provider.

Gillian Guy, said Citizens Advice data showed some people on universal credit were losing sleep and unable to afford essential things like food, heating and housing, and called on the government to reduce the five-week wait and end the freeze on benefit rates.

Universal credit wait fuels poverty and food bank use, says research, 19/09/2019, Patrick Butler

Ministers have come under renewed pressure to overhaul universal credit after fresh research finds that the system’s five week wait for payment has fuelled poverty and increased food bank use.

The Trussell Trust said the minimum 35-day wait could have “a rapid, devastating and long-lasting impact on their finances, housing security and mental health.”

Gillian Guy said the data echoed Citizens Advice’s own findings: “It’s clear, from the findings across the charity sector helping universal credit claimants, that the system is not providing everyone with the financial safety net people need,” she said.


Hundreds jailed for unpaid council tax

Financial Times, 18/09/2019, Emma Agyemang

Nearly 700 people have been jailed for failing to pay their council tax since 2010, with a further 7,000 handed a suspended “committal order”, the latest figures from the HM Courts and Tribunals Service reveal.

Non-payment of council tax is not a criminal offence. But under a law, dating back to the scrapping of the poll tax, councils can apply for a “committal order”, where a debtor can be imprisoned for up to three months. England is the only nation in the UK where local authorities still use this power.

Gillian Guy said: “Outdated regulations push local authorities to collect council tax arrears aggressively. Threatening imprisonment, or sending people to prison in England, undermines efforts to make debt collection less punitive. The same regulations also mean that after one missed monthly payment people can become liable for their full year’s bill, pushing people into further debt.”


Smart meter deadline delay

Talk Radio 17/09/2019 Eamonn Holmes (5.20pm)

Eamonn Holmes has covered the extension of the smart meter rollout on his Talk Radio programme. Eamonn pointed out that Citizens Advice had been calling for the deadline to be extended. He interviewed our Head of Future Energy Services Dhara Vyas.

Dhara said the new deadline would be good news for customers because it gives suppliers “a bit of time” to sort out technical difficulties and make the rollout a better experience for customers.” She added overall smart meters were “a good thing”, that will help people assess how much they’re using, and help modernise the energy infrastructure.

BBC Radio WM, 17/09/2019 Paul Franks (5.19pm)

Our policy manager for smart meters Colin Griffiths was interviewed on BBC Radio West Midlands.

Colin said the problem with the original deadline “it was incentivising suppliers to go quickly, rather than doing things well, carefully and with good value for consumers.”

Smart Meter Roll Out Delay

Talk Radio, 17/09/2019, 09:55:23

Dhara Vyas, Head of Future Energy Services at Citizens Advice, spoke to Julia Hartley Brewer on Talk Radio yesterday morning.

Dhara said it’s been clear for some time the original 2020 deadline wasn’t going to be met and the extension: “recognises the reality of it.”

Dhara added that Citizens Advice had seen cases of people feeling pressured into getting a smart meter: “it moves the pressure away from customers and in terms of suppliers not just focusing on speed and giving a quality installation experience.”

In addition, Sean Alexander, Chief Executive at Citizens Advice Newcastle, spoke to BBC Newcastle about the common gripes people have with smart meters, including poor technology and displays going “dumb.”

Smart-meter plan faces 4-year delay and £2 billion increase, 16/09/2019, Nathalie Thomas

The government has pushed back the deadline for its £13 billion smart energy meter rollout by four years to 2024.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Extending the smart meter rollout deadline is a common-sense move that is good news for consumers. It’s been clear for a long time that the 2020 deadline wouldn’t be met and today’s announcement finally recognises that reality.”

Our comment was also included in coverage by Guardian, Mail Online, Independent, Telegraph (p.11), and Times (p.41).

Why do energy firms keep going bust?

The Independent, 16/09/2019, Felicity Hannah

The collapse of Eversmart last week brings the number of energy firms to have gone bust in 2019 to five. While 13 have now gone under since November 2016.

This isn’t without cost. Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, says we are all paying for these failures: “When a supplier goes bust, customer credit balances are protected. But all of us will eventually pay for honouring them through increased bills. Ofgem needs to act to reduce the cost of supplier failures and protect customers.”

In other news

The number of children leaving school without basic qualifications by the age of 18 has risen by nearly a quarter in the past three years.

Large investment banks have so far relocated out of Britain fewer than 1,000 jobs with six weeks to go before the country is due to leave the European Union.

Graduates of 24 top UK universities are more likely to find work soon after graduating than those from other universities.

About one in 20 workers does not get paid holidays according to a report by the Resolution Foundation think tank.