Author Archives: Oliver Domleo

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CAB News 16 November 2018

Friday 16 November 2018

EE and Virgin Media have been fined £13.3m by the Telecoms regulator for overcharging customers wanting to leave broadband and phone contracts early. We are issuing a response to this.

In other top news, our post research continues to receive media coverage and, a study commissioned by Gateshead Council shows universal credit is bad for health and wellbeing.

National

Post

Can the Post Office really plug the gap as bank branches are shut down?

Which? (Web), 16/11/2018, Unattributed

The UK has lost two-thirds of its bank branches in the past 30 years, sparking warnings that communities are losing access to mainstream financial services.

Gillian Guy said: ‘Research from Which? echoes our own – we also found relatively few people know post offices provide basic banking services. And of those who did know, only about one in two said they’re using them. We want the government, the Post Office and banks to raise awareness, and help improve the banking services post offices offer, to ensure they meet consumer needs.

The issue has also been covered by the Yorkshire Post.

Debt

Promise to curb rogue bailiffs after MP tells of disabled woman’s ordeal

The Guardian, 14/11/2018, p18, Peter Walker

Wolverhampton MP Emma Reynolds highlighted our research in yesterday’s Justice questions and referenced the experiences of a disabled constituent who had a shocking bailiff encounter.

Reynolds also cited a study by Citizens Advice that said a third of people visited by bailiffs said the debt collectors had broken rules of conduct.

Reynolds asked: “When is the government urgently going to review the rules, and introduce an independent body to police the rules?”

850,000 people have had a bad experience with a bailiff – with forced entries top of the list

Mirror Online, 13/11/2018, Emma Munbodh

The article says since 2016, more than 2.2 million people have come into contact with a bailiff in Britain. Citizens Advice said 850,000 of this number have reported experiences such as forced entry or having their tools for work removed.

Gillian Guy said: “The 2014 reforms were well-intentioned but sadly have had little effect on improving the behaviour of some bailiffs.”

‘Bailiffs contributed to my son’s death, we must protect others’

ITV News, 13/11/2018

Senior Policy Researcher Joe Lane was interviewed on ITV lunchtime news alongside Tracey Rogers, who is campaigning for bailiff reform after her son Jerome killed himself following bailiff harassment.

Joe said: “Citizens Advice helps about 40,000 people with bailiff problems each year. Today’s research shows that experience is far more common. There are a set of rules bailiffs are supposed to follow but far too often, those are being broken.”

Head of External Affairs Katie Martin was also interviewed on LBC with Nick Ferrari yesterday morning. The research was also covered by the Independent and Money Saving Expert.

Regional

Benefits

Disabled people can be £300 a month worse off under Universal Credit

Rochdale Online, 12/11/2018

Our research that revealed disabled people could be £300 a month worse off under Universal Credit when compared to legacy benefits was covered by Rochdale Online.

The article revealed Citizens Advice Penine West – which overseas Rochdale, Oldham and Trafford – had helped more than 2,600 people with Universal Credit since it was rolled out in the area.

Jonathan Yates, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Pennine West, said: “We see the toll that Universal Credit can have on disabled people in Rochdale, Oldham and Trafford.

“They can be hundreds of pounds worse off than under the previous system – even when they do get the support meant for them.

“This money is desperately needed to cover key costs including essential bills and stop people falling into serious financial difficulty.”

Citizens Advice – Universal Credit means local disabled people are hundreds of pounds worse off

Oldham Evening Chronicle (Web), 09/11/2018, Unattributed

Citizens Advice Pennine West is calling on the government to make changes to the design and the amount of financial support in Universal Credit to make sure disabled people aren’t penalised when they claim the new benefit.

Jonathan Yates, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Pennine West, said: “We see the toll that Universal Credit can have on disabled people in Trafford, Oldham and Rochdale. They can be hundreds of pounds worse off than under the previous system – even when they do get the support meant for them.”

In other news

Universal credit has become a serious threat to public health.

NHS ‘could be short of 350,000 staff by 2030’.

A survey has revealed the UK’s “worst” online retailer.


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Time for action on bailiff regulation as charities reveal rules are broken every minute

Friday 16 November 2018

Rule-breaking bailiffs are causing people increased stress, anxiety and financial hardship, according to new research published today by Citizens Advice and StepChange.

The charities are calling for the government to step in and regulate the industry to prevent more people suffering at the hands of debt collectors who flout the rules.

New figures reveal that one third (850,000) of the 2.2 million people contacted by a bailiff in the last two years experienced them pushing the limits of the law – such as by forcing entry into a home or removing goods needed for work.

This works out as one person every minute being forced to deal with a rule-breaking bailiff.

Citizens Advice broke down the impact this has on people’s mental health and financial position. It found of those who had a negative experience with a bailiff:

  • 7 in 10 reported increased stress and anxiety
  • 1 in 2 experienced knock-on effects on their finances, including further debt due to enforcement fees

The findings suggest the government reforms introduced in 2014 to protect people from unfair practices are not working. Since then, Citizens Advice has reported a 24% rise in bailiff problems, and it remains one of the most common debt issues it helps people with.

The rules bailiffs are breaking

The national polling carried out by YouGov reveals when people were affected by – or witnessed – a bailiff breaking the rules:

  • 1 in 5 (18%) witnessed unsympathetic treatment towards people with an illness/disability
  • 1 in 6 (17%) had a break-in threatened (when bailiffs don’t have legal powers to do this)
  • 1 in 10 (11%) had goods needed for their work removed, for example tools or a vehicle
  • 1 in 16 (6%) had entry forced into their home.

Citizens Advice analysed these figures and is also concerned bailiffs demonstrate poor practice by refusing to accept reasonable offers of payment when the debt is unable to be paid in full. It helped people with nearly 17,000 issues associated with a refusal to accept payment offers last year.

In one example, Citizens Advice helped a person with depression who fell behind on their council tax two years in a row. This debt amounted to about £1,000. After food and other essential expenses, they have £40 available income each month with half (£20) being used to meet the cost of the first year’s council tax debt. Recently, they made an offer to repay the other debt with the remaining £20 of available income. But the offer was refused and the bailiff insisted on asking for repayment in full.

The charity’s data shows that this situation is not unusual. The average person it helped with council tax last year had just £15 a week disposable income.

It’s time to solve this problem

Bailiff issues are part of a wider problem of households falling behind on essential bills. Citizens Advice estimates households have a total of £19 billion of arrears on bills such as council tax and utilities. Since 2011, these debt issues have overtaken the number of consumer credit issues (e.g. loans and credit cards) that people are seeking the charity’s help with.

The impact of bailiff use has also been highlighted this year by MPs on the Treasury Select Committee, who labelled government and local authorities “worst in class” for debt collection. In September, the National Audit Office said there was evidence that aggressive enforcement action is ineffective, and can be harmful in situations where the debtor is struggling to pay.

Citizens Advice, StepChange and the other 9 organisations that make up the ‘Taking Control’ group are calling for an independent body to be introduced to enforce high standards in the bailiff industry.

Through the Ministry of Justice’s upcoming consultation on the enforcement industry, the group wants to see an independent bailiff regulator established.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Too often bailiffs, and the firms they work for, are a law unto themselves. This is inflicting widespread harm on people and their families and it has to stop.

“The 2014 reforms were well intentioned but sadly have had little effect on improving the behaviour of some bailiffs.

“Faced with the evidence we’ve put in front of them, the Ministry of Justice has no other option but to establish an independent bailiff regulator.”

Phil Andrew, StepChange Debt Charity Chief Executive, added:

“The fact is that all the main debt advice charities are continuing to see too many cases where bailiffs are breaking the rules. This is completely unacceptable, especially as the people on the receiving end are often distressed, vulnerable and unempowered.

“Across the debt advice sector, we are united in the view that it’s now time for regulation to be more robust, and for the rules to be properly enforced. Even some bailiff firms seem to be realising that the days of informal regulation need to end.”


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CAB News Friday 09 November 2018

Friday 09 November 2018

Today Citizens Advice has been picked up by a variety of news outlets including the Daily Mail, the Guardian and local media.

National

Broadband Loyalty Penalty

Sticking with your broadband provider costs an average of £230 a year, research shows

The Daily Mail, 09/11/2018, p.10, Amelia Murray/Sean Poulter

Our call for a consumer champion for the broadband market has been included in the Daily Mail’s coverage of new figures that show the price customers are paying for the internet. Our super-complaint into the loyalty penalty was also referenced.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “No one should be penalised for their loyalty. It’s clear the industry needs more scrutiny which is why the Government should set up an independent champion for consumers as is the case in other essential markets.”

UN investigation into poverty

Life on the poverty frontline: UN turns its gaze on UK

The Guardian, 08/11/2018, Robert Booth

Image result for poverty uk food banks

Citizens Advice Newcastle was listed as one of the places the UN investigation into poverty visited during its investigation into poverty in the UK. A local client was quoted.

Sharon Morton said: “I wash in what I call a birdbath – a little hot water in a basin and have a spruce down. To keep warm I wrap up in layers and layers. I never thought I would be 48 and in this position.”

Energy price cap designed to protect 11 million households to come into force from January 1

Metro, 07/11/2018, p.28, Holly Williams

Our response to the energy price cap details announced by the regulator Ofgem yesterday was included in the Metro’s coverage.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “This price cap will finally offer some much-needed protection for loyal households on default tariffs, who have been exploited for too long.”

Our response was also picked up in the Sun, the MailOnline, Evening Standard and the Guardian.

Regional

Citizens Advice Sheffield

BBC Radio Sheffield, 08/11/2018, 12:11:15

Francis Potter, Citizens Advice Sheffield, took calls on BBC Radio Sheffield on the roll-out of Universal Credit across the city.

“Most of Sheffield is effected but it’s only for new claims. If you’re already on legacy benefits, you won’t have to do anything… Only those who have a change of circumstances will be moved over to Universal Credit.”

In other news

High Street Shops are closing at a rate of 14 per day.

MPs have have found single parents, care leavers and people with disabilities and health conditions were “disproportionately vulnerable” to benefit sanctions.

Today the state pension age rises to 65 for women and some campaigners are concerned the pace of equalisation has left some retirees facing poverty.

 


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Energy price cap “offers some much needed protection for loyal households”, says Citizens Advice

Friday 09 November 2018

Citizens Advice, in its role as the official consumer champion for energy, has responded to Ofgem’s announcement confirming the level and timing of the price cap on default tariffs.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“This price cap will finally offer some much needed protection for loyal households on default tariffs, who have been exploited for too long.

“While the cap will mean that people pay a fairer price, it will not be the best deal on the market. By shopping around and changing tariff or supplier, people are likely to be able to make much greater savings on their energy bills.

“Households may also be able to reduce their bills and make long-term savings by improving the energy efficiency of their homes. Simple steps, such as better insulation or heating controls, are a good place to start.”

Consumer Advice

To support customers to save money on their energy bills, Citizens Advice provides an independent comparison site and a customer service star rating which ranks suppliers’ customer service.


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CAB News 2 November 2018

Friday 2 November 2018

The Financial Conduct Authority’s announcement that it is to investigate pricing in the insurance market was widely reported alongside our research that found loyalty penalties cost UK consumers more than £4 billion every year.

National

‘This isn’t about bits and pieces of money’

BBC Radio 5 Live, 31/10/2018 (51m 40 s in)

Our Director of Policy Matthew Upton was interviewed on 5 Live’s Drive programme about the FCA’s announcement on insurance pricing.

“It’s important to say this is not about it being a bit annoying and people losing out on bits and pieces on money,” he said.

“A lot of people we see, they’re living on the edge and this loyalty penalty can be up to £1,000 a year once you have totted it up across different markets.

“For some of the most vulnerable people in society that’s the difference between getting by and not getting by.”

Benefits

Universal Credit leaving Hambleton disabled people £300 worse off, says charity

Hambleton Today and Richmondshire Today, 31/10/2018, Joe Willis

Citizens Advice Mid North Yorkshire concerns that Universal Credit could leave disabled people £300 a week worse off when compared to the previous benefits system was covered by local press.

The story reported that the charity has helped 1,708 people with Universal Credit since it was rolled out, of which 642 were disabled or had a long-term health condition.

Carol Shreeve, chief executive of Citizens Advice Mid North Yorkshire, said: “We see the toll that Universal Credit can have on disabled people in Richmondshire.

“They can be hundreds of pounds worse off than under the previous system – even when they do get the support meant for them.

“This money is desperately needed to cover key costs including essential bills and stop people falling into serious financial difficulty.”

‘There are obviously problems with it’

BBC Radio Cumbria, 28/10/2018 (54m in)

Andy Auld, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Carlisle and Eden, was interviewed by BBC radio on the rollout of Universal Credit in the area.

“There are obviously problems with Universal Credit that aren’t going to be sorted out by a mass roll out,” he said.

“It needs to be slowed down and thought through.”

Sandie Lock appeared on Holding Back the Years

BBC1 Holding Back the Years, 29/10/2018

Our benefits expert Sandie Lock appeared on BBC1 programme Holding Back the Years to talk about the issues older people face when dealing with benefits.

The programme followed the case of Diane Geraghty, who survived only on cheese after her pension and benefits payments stopped due to a DWP error.

Sandie said: “The benefits system is very complicated and it can be difficult for people to understand and find their way around.

“We often find at Citizens Advice that a lot of clients will come to us are worried, sometimes anxious, and sometimes angry and frustrated.

“A lot of people find it difficult to get advice straight away, which maybe through embarrassment.”

In other news

The number of UK households in energy debt has risen by 300,0000.

The North-South house price divide will narrow over the next five years according to Savills.

There has been a surge in applications for Irish passports, with one in 10 Britons outside Northern Ireland likely to be eligible for one.


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Citizens Advice says FCA’s insurance finding “shocking”

Category : Consumer Issues

Friday 02 November 2018

Citizens Advice has responded to the Financial Conduct Authority’s report into household insurance pricing.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“We knew insurance companies were penalising loyal customers, but it is shocking that the FCA has found many companies don’t even seem to have oversight of how much they’re charging customers.

“The insurance industry has said they want to tackle the loyalty penalty – but it’s hard to see how they can achieve this when companies don’t even have these basics in place.

“The FCA is treating the loyalty penalty seriously by conducting this review and scrutinising firms through a market study. We now expect strong regulatory action to stamp out this problem and enforcement against firms who are overcharging loyal customers.

“This is symbolic of a wider issue across essential markets like mortgages, broadband, mobile and savings.The Competition and Markets Authority needs to look very carefully at this as they respond to our super-complaint on the loyalty penalty.”


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Budget announcement on breathing space ‘a call to arms’ to tackle debt misery, says Citizens Advice

Category : Money & Debt

Friday 02 November 2018

Citizens Advice has responded to the government announcement on debt breathing space and interest-free loans.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Improvements to the breathing space scheme and a proposal for an interest-free-loan scheme are welcome news from Treasury.

“We expect this lead to be a call to action to the public and private sectors, and to regulators, to tackle the misery of debt and help more than one million people who are forced to turn to high-cost credit.

“The government should now reinforce these initiatives by overhauling its own debt collection practices, including regulating bailiffs. It should also ensure specialist debt advice is readily available for people alongside breathing space and that the Financial Conduct Authority cap the cost of rent-to-own agreements by April 2019.”


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Citizens Advice says concerns remain despite government’s budget boost for Universal Credit

Category : Benefits

Friday 02 November 2018

Citizens Advice has responded to the government’s announcement of a boost in funding for Universal Credit in this year’s Budget.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Today’s announcement suggests the government rightly acknowledges Universal Credit has serious problems that must be fixed. This funding will help some people who are really struggling to get by including disabled people.

“However, there are still fundamental problems with Universal Credit. Based on our evidence, we believe improvements must be made to Universal Credit before millions more people are moved onto the new benefit.

“We await further details on additional protections announced for those moving over to Universal Credit as we’re concerned some people may be left behind without enough money to live on.”


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CAB News Friday 26 October 2018

Friday 26 October 2018

Our report on disabled people being up to £300 worse off under Universal Credit got widespread national coverage this morning.

There are two template press releases available on Cablink (here and here) for you to send to your local media contacts: if you have UC and if you don’t. This includes breakdowns of the number of clients you help who are disabled or have a long-term health condition.

National

Universal Credit

Universal Credit Could Strip Disabled People Of £300 A Month, Says New Report

Huffington Post, 26/10/2018

Our report on the detrimental effect Universal Credit will have on disabled people was carried by Huffington Post

They interviewed a case study we provided who found he was missing out on £97.85 per week when he was moved to Universal Credit.

Sam said “it gets to the point that I pay my bills and I have £100 left to live on for the whole month..It gets me down that I can’t see my friends as much as I’d like”.

CREDIT CHAOS: Disabled people will be ‘£300 a month worse off’ under Universal Credit

The Sun, 26/10/2018

The Sun also reported on the flaws in the system which mean some disabled people will suffer financially.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said “Some disabled people will be unfairly disadvantaged under Universal Credit. The government needs to address this and increase the financial support disabled people can receive under Universal Credit.”

Our report was also covered by:

Kayley Hignell interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live

Wake up to Money, 26/10/2018 (34m 50s in)

Kayley Hignell, our Head of Policy for Families, Welfare and Work, was interviewed on 5 Live’s Wake up to Money programme about an MP report into Universal Credit – which said the DWP had a “culture of indifference” about the benefit.

Kayley said: “For the people we’ve been looking at recently – people who have disabilities – we are finding that those who are working aren’t able to access the support that’s available in the Universal Credit system to make sure that is the case – that they are better off when working.”

Rogue Landlords

53 councils have not prosecuted a single landlord in three years

The Guardian, 25/10/2018, p10, Tom Wall

Rules for landlords not fit for purpose, says John McDonnell

A joint investigation by The Guardian and ITV found more than one in seven councils in England and Wales have failed to prosecute a single bad landlord over the past three years.

Jill Harrison, the chief executive of Enfield Citizens Advice, said rogue landlords had little to fear in Enfield because the council does not have the resources to deal with the complaints.

She said “there is a serious problem with disrepair in the borough. But there is very little disincentive for rogue landlords behaving in this way.”

Debt

I wanted to kill myself over £50k debts but here’s how I paid it off every penny in six years

The Sun online, 24/10/2018

The Sun reports on a charity worker who considered suicide over £50,000 worth of debt, but then managed to pay back every cent in six years.
With support from debt advisers at Citizens Advice and a mental health charity, Emma Malcolm, from Hampshire, turned her finances around.

Ms Malcolm, spoke of the advice Citizens Advice gave her, and said “they helped me sort out what payments were a priority and how I could make some extra cash”.

In other news

New railcard for millennials – people aged between 26-30 – will be able to get the special railcard by the end of the year.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned UK’s most vulnerable risk being trapped in disadvantage.

The law fails to stop rogue landlords.


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Disabled people can be more than £300 a month worse off under Universal Credit

Friday 26th October 2018

Universal Credit could leave some single disabled people more than £300 a month worse off compared to the previous system, research from Citizens Advice reveals.

In its new report, Universal Credit for Single Disabled People, Citizens Advice reveals a significant drop in financial support for single disabled people in a range of circumstances.

This includes losses that can be more than £300 a month for working disabled people because of flaws in the design of the new benefit. The Work Allowance is meant to improve work incentives for disabled people in Universal Credit.

However, in practice, the Work Allowance can only be accessed through the Work Capability Assessment, which gives benefits awards to people unable to work, rather than for disabled people who can work. This creates the situation where a worker must be assessed as not fit for work to receive targeted in-work support.

The report shows disabled people will lose out in many ways:

  • Working disabled people on Universal Credit could be more than £300 per month worse off because they struggle to access the Work Allowance while in work.

  • Working disabled people who do get the Work Allowance could be more than £200 per month worse off due to weaker support from the Work Allowance when compared to support for disabled workers in Tax Credits.

  • Disabled people who can only do limited work have their benefit reduced after working just 6 hours a week at the minimum wage if they have housing costs, rather than 16 hours a week in the previous system. This means somebody working 12 hours a week can be over £100 a month worse off.

  • People without a carer and unable to work who make a new Universal Credit claim can be £180 a month worse off because the Severe Disability Premium was removed.

Universal Credit is the government’s flagship welfare programme that rolls 6 legacy benefits – such as Tax Credits and Employment and Support Allowance – into one monthly payment.

Citizens Advice has looked extensively at the effects of the new system including recent reports on problems making a claimand work incentives.

This latest report from the charity finds that Universal Credit has brought some improvements by simplifying the benefits system and removing “cliff edges”, where some people lose large chunks of income if they work just a few more hours.

However, Citizens Advice says the government – which wants 1 million more disabled people in work by 2027 – must increase financial help and improve work incentives for disabled people and those with health conditions.

It is calling on the government to make changes to the design of Universal Credit to make sure disabled people aren’t penalised when they claim the new benefit.

Citizens Advice identifies four things the government should consider improving in Universal Credit for disabled people and those with health conditions:

  • Ensure working people receive targeted in-work financial support if they are disabled or have a health condition.

  • Ensure disabled people with a Limited Capability for Work are able to trial part-time work without facing a significant penalty in their benefits.

  • Review the removal of the Limited Capability for Work element, worth £29 a week, and the introduction of a personal support package.

  • Introduce targeted financial support through a self-care element for disabled people who live alone without an adult carer.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Some disabled people will be unfairly disadvantaged under Universal Credit.

“Working disabled people need to prove they are unfit to work to get support meant for them. This goes against the government’s aim to support a million disabled people into work.

“Even when disabled people do get the support meant for them under Universal Credit, whether they are in work or not, they can be hundreds of pounds worse off a month than the previous system. This is money people desperately need to cover their bills.

“The government needs to address this and increase the financial support disabled people can receive under Universal Credit.”