Category Archives: Benefits

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CAB News 29 November 2019

Friday 29 November 2019

Local Citizens Advice have achieved widespread local coverage with tips for shopping smart on Black Friday today.

National

Consumer

How to stay smart and savvy on Black Friday

Northwich Guardian, Lancaster and Morecambe Citizen, Express and Star, Yorkshire Evening Post, Shropshire Star, 28/11/2019,

Citizens Advice Cheshire West, Citizens Advice Shropshire and national Citizens Advice were all mentioned in coverage warning consumers about Black Friday.

In the last year, Citizens Advice consumer service dealt with almost half a million consumer-related issues like faulty washing machines, undelivered parcels and fake designer goods.

More than 50,000 of these were during November 2018, by far the busiest month for the consumer service.

Universal Credit

Million universal credit households ‘do not get full entitlement’

The Observer, 24/11/2019, p.30, Chaminda Jayanetti

Image result for universal credit household entitlement

More than a million households on universal credit – 60% of everyone receiving the payments – are having their benefits cut to repay debts and loans, reported The Observer.

Gillian Guy told the paper: “Our evidence shows many people on universal credit are struggling to make ends meet, and that deductions are contributing to this.”

She said the government should introduce affordability tests when recouping debts from claimants.

Energy

Regulator rips up 26 gas and electricity licences as it emerges they can be bought for just £70,000

Daily Mail, 23/11/2019, Grace Gausden

Our reaction to the energy regulator Ofgem revoking the licences of 26 gas and electricity supply firms, initially picked up by the industry’s trade press, has now been reported in the Daily Mail.

The licences for the ‘off the shelf’ companies were cancelled because none of them had started supplying energy more than a year after licences were issued.

Gillian Guy: ‘These licences were granted before a tougher regime for new suppliers came into force.

‘This move by Ofgem is positive and means these firms can’t start operating without meeting the stricter rules.’

Regional

Heating Scheme

New ‘heating bank’ scheme launched to keep struggling households warm in Ellesmere Port and Chester

Chester Standard, 27/11/2019, Steve Creswell

Image result for heating bank

Citizens Advice Cheshire West has launched their Heating Bank campaign that helps individuals who can’t afford their energy bills this winter.

Last year, they were able to help Sarah, who had been rehoused with her two-year-old daughter following domestic abuse. Electricity for the property had cost £115 over 2 weeks, which left her with only £2 for food and heating. Through the scheme, they added £25 to her key meter account.

Liz Dickinson, of Citizens Advice Cheshire West, said: “Every winter several members of our community struggle to pay for enough gas and electricity to heat their homes and cook hot food. We are aiming to make a difference in Chester and Ellesmere Port for those people who are struggling to keep warm and we’re asking for your support.

“We are appealing to individuals, companies, and funders to contribute to our Heating bank. Every pound you donate will go to a household who needs help.”

Consumer

Citizens Advice issues Black Friday advice

Stray FM, 26/11/2019, Harry Long

Citizens Advice Harrogate and Craven have issued advice in the lead up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to guide consumers on how to buy and budget smart.

Edward Pickering, CEO at Citizens Advice Craven & Harrogate Districts said: “It is important that anyone thinking about turning to credit or taking out a loan to help pay for purchases understands the full costs involved and if they can actually afford to pay it back.”

Citizens Advice on spending smart this Black Friday

Bracknell News, 25/11/2019, Leon Riccio

In the last year, Citizens Advice consumer service has dealt with almost half a million consumer-related issues like faulty washing machines, undelivered parcels and fake designer goods.

But by far the most enquiries come in during November as people start their Christmas shopping.

Callum Pirson at Citizens Advice Bracknell and District said: “At this time of year many people may feel the pressure to part with their money.

“It is important that anyone thinking about turning to credit or taking out a loan to help pay for purchases understands the full costs involved and if they can actually afford to pay it back.

In other news

Black Friday or Buy Nothing Day?

NPower to cut 4,500 jobs.

Parts of England “have higher mortality rates than Turkey”.

Immigration: Home Office reverses attempt to deport Jamaican man ‘to Iraq’.


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CAB News 22 November 2019

Friday 22 November 2019

Citizens Advice’s call for the waiting time for Universal Credit to be reduced by bringing forward the first non-repayable payment to no later than two weeks into a claim, has been highlighted by the plight of a BBC screenwriter forced to go to a food bank for help while waiting for the benefit to be paid.

National

Universal Credit

Creator of BBC’s Rastamouse criticises Universal Credit after he is left needing help from food bank

My London, 19/11/2019, Owen Sheppard

The story of how the creator of the BBC children’s programme Rastamouse, screenwriter Michael de Souza, was forced to seek help from a food bank while waiting for his first Universal Credit payment to come through has the headlines.

Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Westminster, Shirley Springer, spoke about the issue and the call by Citizens Advice to reduce this waiting time.

Shirley said: “Things are improving with Universal Credit but it’s still a big issue. It takes the DWP five weeks to process a claim and that’s causing people a lot of difficulty.

“You can get an advance payment from the DWP and negotiate how much is paid back each week.”

Mr de Souza said: “I was concerned about being put on Universal Credit, because I had heard about the hardship it has caused people.

“I had to wait five weeks to get my first payment. I now get £317 per month.

“The amount of money you’re supposed to live on is just unbelievable. I actually couldn’t believe I was in this position. It has completely knocked me back.”

Trade

Subject

Ofgem rips up licences linked to energy suppliers

Energy Live, 21/11/2019

Our reaction, as the official consumer watchdog for energy, to the news that the industry regulator Ofgem has revoked licences belonging to 14 different companies has been covered by the sector trade press.

The licences were withdrawn as none of the businesses had started supplying gas or electricity more than a year after they were issued.

Most of the firms are shell companies, set up by consultants and sold to aspiring energy suppliers who sell utilities to households or businesses.

Gillian Guy said: “These licences were granted before a tougher regime for new suppliers came into force. This move by Ofgem is positive and means these firms can’t start operating without meeting the stricter rules.”

She called on Ofgem to make “effective changes” to ensure operating companies are regulated.

Consumer

How to watch what you’re spending on entertainment online

MailOnline, 20/11/2019, Ben Wilkinson

Citizens Advice research about subscriptions was cited in the Mail’s coverage of a new online streaming service.

Our research says two million customers have struggled to cancel payments for subscriptions they no longer want and people waste an average of £640 a year on these.

Debt

How far are debt collectors allowed to go to claim money back from you?

The Metro, 16/1/2019, Almara Abgarian

Citizens Advice recommendations on how to deal with bailiffs, and what the law says concerning their behaviour, were outlined in an article in The Metro .

The paper is focusing on debt in November, in a series of reports in the paper and online. In another of the articles, The Metro featured our advice on how to avoid building up debts on your energy bills, and how to pay back your supplier if you do owe them money.

Regional

Wigan residents wrongly denied hundreds of thousands of pounds in benefits

Wigan Today, 15/11/2019, Andrew Nowell

Image result for wigan benefits tribunal

Citizens’ Advice Wigan Borough says a staggering 86 per cent of the cases it handled heard by benefits tribunals in 2018-19 were won by the claimant.

As the local paper reported, this resulted in more than £205,000 in backdated payments being awarded, in addition to ongoing higher payments the service managed to secure.

Chief Officer Lisa Kidston said she believes the whole system needs an overhaul: “We are getting a large number of people at the moment saying their medical report bears no resemblance to what happened during the assessment.”

She added: “There are discrepancies in reports. We’ve had ones starting off saying the claimant was unable to sit down but then says they sat normally three or four times.

“It seems often they use a template and then forget to change it to make it relate to the individual.”

In other news

‘Downward mobility’ a reality for many British youngsters today.

‘Half of women will be carers by the age of 46′.

A maternity trust could face corporate manslaughter for deaths of women and children.

UK social security payments ‘at lowest level since launch of welfare state’.


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CAB News 15 November 2019

Friday 15 November 2019

Earlier in the year we submitted a Freedom of Information request to local councils across England to ask about how they collect council tax arrears.

Today we published the national findings of this research including that last year, for every £1 referred to bailiffs for collection, councils received just 27p in return.

We know council tax debt is important to many local Citizens Advice and their relationship with their local authority. So we have produced a support pack to help you take action locally – this also includes a template press release.

Councils get just 27p from every £1 collected by bailiffs – and it’s pushing households into debt

The Sun, PA on AOL, 13/11/2019

The Sun featured our call on councils to stop using bailiffs to collect debts over fears this “outdated” regulation is pushing struggling families deeper into debt.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Council tax debt is now worryingly common but the collection system is broken.

“It doesn’t work for the people who are driven further into debt and it doesn’t work for councils or the taxpayer who are seeing millions of pounds go to waste each year.”

Council tax collection system is broken

LBC, 13/11/2019

Our research, showing households struggling to pay their council tax are being pushed into further debt as outdated regulations see councils resort to bailiffs to collect arrears, continues to get nationwide coverage.

The story featured on Sky News bulletins, BBC Radio 4’s News Briefing and LBC.

Principal Policy Manager, Joe Lane, told LBC that council tax arrears is the most common debt problem dealt with by Citizens Advice.

He said: “The regulations set by central government push councils into using inefficient methods of collection… and they’re adding on costs which push people further into debt.”

He added: “We want to see the next government look at those regulations and amend them to help councils collect debt in a more flexible way.”

How to spot Black Friday scams

Daily Mail, 13/11/2019, Grace Gausden

Our advice on how to avoid being scammed this Black Friday and Cyber Monday has featured in the Daily Mail.

The paper quoted Citizens Advice figures which show more than 13,000 people reported issues with online marketplaces in 2017, being hit by an average loss of £215, suggesting that an increasing number of customers are being duped online.

It also revealed that calls about problems with purchases on online marketplaces have increased by 35 per cent over the past four years.

The Mail also advised customers worried that something they’ve seen online might be a scam, to seek help from a Citizens Advice Scams Action adviser by calling 0300 330 3003.

Households could be billed twice for green tax after suppliers go bust

Yahoo Finance, 10/11/2019, August Graham

Our call for energy supply firms to pay their Renewable Obligations – so-called ‘green taxes’ – more regularly in order to protect consumers if a company goes out of business, has been highlighted by a financial website in a feature on the issue.

Yahoo Finance said: “Consumer champions Citizens Advice has highlighted the issues in the past. Chief executive Gillian Guy in June called on the Government to force suppliers to pay the tax more regularly, limiting the impact when one goes bust.”

Outsourcing of UK civil enforcement work causes concern

Financial Times, 10/11/2019, Gill Plimmer

Our research, published earlier this year, which showed a sharp rise in people seeking help with “bailiff-related issues”, and vulnerable consumers targeted by increasingly aggressive debt collection methods, has been used by the Financial Times.

The number of reported problems with bailiffs exceeded 103,000 in the 12 months to March 31 this year – a 16 per cent increase on the previous year – which Citizens Advice said was driven by “a rise in bailiffs not following the rules around rights of entry”.

Our figures showed nearly one in six of the incidents involved bailiffs “threatening to break in, or unlawfully doing so”, a rise of 13 per cent on the previous year.

Call to crack down on energy broker rip-offs which could cause small businesses to go bust

Mail on Sunday, 10/11/2019, p.107, Marc Shoffman

Our report Closing the Protection Gap, which calls for greater protections for microbusinesses – including a shake up of the way energy brokers are regulated – has featured in a substantial article in the Mail on Sunday.

Gillian Guy said: “The majority of brokers provide a trusted and valuable service. However, our evidence shows a minority exploit microbusinesses.

“We see cases of brokers employing aggressive sales tactics and not being transparent about fees.”

She added: “We’ve seen this lead to debt and disconnection. It ultimately increases the risk of business failure.”

Citizens Advice wants better regulation and, at a minimum, a mandatory code of practice.

In other news

Half of disability benefits appeals won in tribunal court.

Top UK firms ‘still a long way’ from hitting targets for women in senior roles.

Amazon and eBay ‘must block illicit nitrous oxide sales’.