Author Archives: Oliver Domleo

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CAB News 27 November 2020

Friday 20 November 2020

We responded to Ofcom’s user needs review of the postal sector and Alistair Cromwell’s comment was picked up by several national papers.

National

Post

Royal Mail could drop Saturday post

The Times, Daily Mail, The Mirror, 27/11/2020, Robert Lea, Industrial Editor, for The Times

The postal regulator appears to have cleared the way for the government to relax the statutory commitment of Royal Mail to deliver six days a week to all addresses in the UK.

An Ofcom review of Royal Mail’s universal service obligation, enshrined in law, found that most homes and businesses will experience little impact in cutting deliveries to five days a week.

However, postal workers and consumer groups are strongly critical.

Alistair Cromwell said: “We must be cautious about making swift judgments about the long term during the pandemic. We don’t want to see the start of a slippery slope in reductions to the service.

Consumer rights

Black Friday UK: Citizens Advice issue guidance as scam and data breach figures skyrocket

Express, 25/11/20

When is Black Friday 2020? Start date and what UK deals are available online now - Mirror Online

Citizens Advice has issued advice on how to ensure safe and savvy shopping this Black Friday, as it has seen online shopping-related problem queries jump to almost 125,000, nearly double what was seen in 2019.

Jerry Houseago, Consumer Expert, shared his top tips for helping consumers stay safe online.

Debt

Martin Lewis helps Briton to claim £1,600 from bank and pay off 12 years of debt

Express & Martin Lewis Money Show, 24/11/20

Lisa Marie told her story of how she finally managed to overcome her debt worries on the Martin Lewis Money Show.

After spotting Martin Lewis’ advice in 2015 on gaining debt help from charities such as Citizens Advice, she approached it for help.

The charity helped her to plan arrangements for each of her debts. This enabled Lisa Marie, who lives in Glasgow, to be able to tackle the issue far better, compartmentalising her debt and gradually working towards paying it off.

She said: “You worry about it for so long, but then finally the pressure is then released. It proves to be a real weight off your shoulders.”

Self-isolation grant

Call to expand £500 grant for Covid self-isolaters

BBC News, BBC Radio 2 (1:01:55), BBC Radio 4 (5:28), BBC 5Live (01:55), iNews & local stations, 22/11/20

Citizens Advice has called on the government to look again at the support available to those asked to self-isolate. It comes as concerns were raised that the £500 self-isolation grant is only available to those contacted via NHS Test and Trace, but not those who are told to self-isolate via the NHS Covid app.

Director of External Affairs, Katie Martin said: “We know that people generally want to do the right thing, and that’s why they come to us to try and see what they are eligible for. But ultimately people are facing an impossible choice.

“They are taking a big hit on their incomes if they can’t work from home and they do need to self-isolate, but they still have their bills to pay and they still have food shopping to do.”

Citizens Advice Dorset provided invaluable help in raising this issue by highlighting the case of dad-of-five Oliver, who wasn’t eligible for the grant as he was told to isolate via the app.

He said: “I have a young family, there’s seven of us who rely on my income.
“I want to follow the guidelines but they leave you in the lurch a bit without the financial support. It’s been a rough year – that financial burden feels like a massive injustice.”

The report also featured across more than 10 BBC local radio stations, the Nottingham Post and Yahoo.

Redundancy

Energy price: Ofgem ”wants £21 increase for EVERY household” to cover others’ ”bad debt”

Daily Express & Metro

Every household could have to pay an extra £21 on their energy bills to compensate for the number of customers who are getting into debt due to coronavirus.

The regulator Ofgem has proposed raising its cap on the maximum amount the UK’s 11 million households can be charged from next April and has started a consultation.

Recent analysis by Citizens Advice has uncovered the impact of the ongoing pandemic on the ability to meet bills and costs.

Regional

Household debt

Household debts on the rise

BBC Radio Manchester, 23/11/2020 (from about 2 hours 12 mins into clip)

Rosi Avis from Citizens Advice Manchester has been talking about rising household debt on BBC Radio Manchester.

Rosi said the numbers of people coming to the the charity for help with debts is increasing: “Christmas itself very often doesn’t put people in debt, but it can create an additional financial pressure for people… so we do advise people to set themselves a budget for gifts and really stick to that… and if you are going to use credit be really clear on what that means for you going forward.”

In other news

October redundancies double last year’s rate

Unpaid carers have saved the UK £135bn during the pandemic

Black public figures urge airlines to boycott deportation flights


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CAB News 20 November 2020

Friday 20 November 2020

Our scams advice and divorce data appear in the news today.

National

Scams

Scammers Are Touting Dangerous `Red Mercury’ as a Cure for COVID

Vice UK, 17/11/2020, Jak Hutchcraft

Jerry Houseago, Consumer Expert, provides advice for people being offered bogus Covid ‘cures’. Jerry explains: As there is currently no cure for coronavirus, any red mercury products that claim to do so are in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, as they would be neither “as described” nor “fit for purpose.”

Jerry continues: “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. And that’s definitely the case with these ‘miracle’ cures. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you’re looking to buy any health-related products.”

Divorce

More than 100,000 couples divorced last year

BBC, 17/11/2020

The number of couples getting divorced in England and Wales surged by almost a fifth in 2019 to the highest level in five years, figures reveal.

Citizens Advice said divorce guidance searches had risen since April after a drop in visits when lockdown started. It said views of its divorce webpage on the first September weekend were up 25% compared with the same date in 2019.

Tom MacInnes, chief analyst for Citizens Advice, said: “We know that this pandemic has put an enormous strain on people financially but our data shows that strain is also being felt in people’s relationships.”

National Consumer Week

Half of Brits have faced issues with parcel deliveries – your rights

Mirror, 17/112020, James Andrews

Half of British consumers have faced issues with parcel deliveries ahead of the Black Friday and Christmas period as more turn people to online shopping.

Research from Citizens Advice found 47% of adults have had problems with parcel delivery since the country first went into lockdown in March, with 51% saying they feel more reliant on having goods delivered.

Consumer

Half of shoppers buying goods online during the pandemic had problems with parcel delivery

Mail Online, 16/11/2020, Victoria Bischoff

Research by Citizens Advice shows 47 per cent of customers have suffered a problem with parcel delivery during the pandemic.

Citizens Advice received over 8,200 calls about deliveries from March to August, more than three times last year’s figure for that period.

Visits to the charity’s webpage about problems with parcels more than doubled to 208,000 from March to October compared to 2019.

But many consumers do not know their rights. Acting head Alistair Cromwell said it was the seller’s responsibility, not the buyer or courier, to make sure items arrive.

Alistair added:  ‘Having parcels delivered has been a lifeline for so many of us this year, and will continue to be under current restrictions. It’s not right that the number of people having issues with parcels is so high.

The Guardian‘s coverage featured our case study, 77-year-old Sandra, who is shielding because of her age.

Sandra said: “The parcel companies have delivered so many damaged packages. I’ve had items say they have arrived when they have not, so I’m left chasing people which is extremely difficult as most companies do not answer their telephone.”

“The parcels I have ordered are really important to me as they are for my loved ones. So when they do not arrive or turn up completely smashed it’s absolutely heartbreaking. I’ve completely lost faith in the process.”

The story also appeared in The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, i, Metro and Mirror newspapers.

Universal Credit

Cutting universal credit will push millions of people into great hardship

The Guardian, 14/11/2020,

 Alistair Cromwell has written a powerful piece for The Guardian’s opinion pages arguing for the £20-a-week uplift in universal credit to be made permanent.

Alistair writes: “Universal credit is a lifeline that has helped people keep their head above water, but the temporary £20-a-week uplift introduced earlier this year is set to end in spring. This income drop could push many into long-term hardship and set back the country’s economic recovery.”

He adds: “Providing enough for people to meet their costs is essential to give security for the future, as well as to increase spending and support the economy. There is growing public favour for greater support through the benefits system, and hopeful signs the government is considering making the uplift permanent.

“This is vital to help people who’ve lost out as a result of this pandemic, prevent long-term economic scarring and underpin our recovery with a strong benefits safety net.”

In other news

Millions of public sector workers face pay freeze

ComparetheMarket fined £17.9m over competition law breach

Senior jobs with flexible hours ‘get 20% more female applicants’

Post-Grenfell social housing reforms in England to be unveiled

Working from home could lead to more prejudice, report warns


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CAB News 13 November 2020

Friday 13 November 2020

National Consumer Week starts on Monday and we’ve produced a range of tools to help local Citizens Advice take part in the campaign.

National

Universal Credit

Charity helps more than 250,000 people with Universal Credit

Your Money, 11/11/20

More than a quarter of a million people have been helped with Universal Credit by Citizens Advice since March.

Since March, Citizens Advice has helped nearly 280,000 people with Universal Credit, with seven out of 10 never having used the service before.

Alistair Cromwell, Acting Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Our frontline advisers have helped more than 250,000 people with advice on Universal Credit since March. For many, it was the first time they’d needed support from the benefits system.

“The government was quick to boost Universal Credit by £20 a week in recognition of how hard this pandemic would hit.

“But this vital support is only in place until spring, the point at which the furlough scheme is also set to end.

“Making the uplift permanent will provide people with a long-term safety net as our economy and jobs market recover.”

Universal Credit: Rising UK unemployment fuels calls for £20-a-week increase to become permanent

CFM, iNews, Independent, Times Radio (clip starts 2:39:40), 10/11/20

Record redundancy levels amid the coronavirus pandemic have further fuelled calls for the government to permanently raise the rate of Universal Credit to support those who have lost their job.

Citizens Advice, which has helped more than a quarter of a million people with their Universal Credit claims since March, said many people were first-time claimants.

Alistair Cromwell, acting chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The Government was quick to boost Universal Credit by £20 a week in recognition of how hard this pandemic would hit.

“But this vital support is only in place until spring, the point at which the furlough scheme is also set to end.

“Making the uplift permanent will provide people with a long-term safety net as our economy and jobs market recover.”

Principal Policy Manager Minesh Patel spoke to Times Radio about the latest figures and the need for the benefits system to provide a strong safety net.

Andy Auld, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Carlisle and Eden, spoke to Carlisle FM about a 160% increase in people asking for employment help.

Energy

Eon, Ovo Energy and Octopus Energy raise pressure on gas levy

LoveMoney & The Times, 09/11/20

Three of Britain’s biggest energy suppliers have joined the backlash against government plans to charge all households and businesses a flat levy to support “green gas”.

Ministers were already facing opposition from Citizens Advice over the proposed scheme, under which every gas customer in Britain would be charged a levy of up to £6.90 a year, irrespective of how much gas they use.

Scams

Martin Lewis issues urgent warning on ‘nonsense’ scam linked to him

Express, 10/11/20

The Express has warned about a scam doing the rounds, and has included advice. It says according to Citizens Advice, it may be possible to identify a scam if:

  • It seems too good to be true
  • Someone the person doesn’t know contacts them unexpectedly
  • A person suspects they’re not dealing with a real company – for example, if there’s no postal address
  • They’ve been asked to transfer money quickly
  • They’ve been asked to pay in an unusual way – for example, by iTunes vouchers or through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union
  • They’ve been asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs
  • They haven’t had written confirmation of what’s been agreed

Employment

Workers at higher risk of Covid can be furloughed by bosses if they can’t work from home

The Sun, 05/11/2020, Hollie Borland

Employees who are classed as “clinically extremely vulnerable” can be furloughed if they can’t work from home during England’s second lockdown.

Shielding workers were eligible for furlough during the first lockdown but Citizens Advice warned thousands of workers with under-lying health conditions were being denied support.

“Speak to your employer to see if you’re eligible,” said Tracey Moss, expert adviser at Citizens Advice.

“If your employer can’t or won’t furlough you, you may be able to claim sick pay or benefits to support you during this period of restrictions.”

Advice

Financial first aid: how to make it through the second Covid lockdown

The Guardian, 07/11/20

Your financial first aid kit.

The Guardian has looked at what steps you can take if you’re struggling due to the pandemic.

Lorraine Charlton, an adviser at Citizens Advice, said: “Check what additional support is available from your local authority.

“You may be entitled to additional support with your living costs, and school costs if you have children.”

In other news

Kickstart jobs scheme creates 19,000 work placements

Coronavirus: Northern England ‘worst hit’ by pandemic

‘Real living wage’ rises to £9.50 an hour