Category Archives: Benefits

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CAB News 22 February 2019

Friday 22 February 2019

Ofgem has banned energy supplier Solarplicity from taking on new customers for three months.

National

Energy firm Solarplicity banned from taking on new customers

BBC, 22/02/2019

Energy supplier Solarplicity has been banned from taking on new customers for three months due to its poor switching process and customer service.

Gillian Guy said: “Solarplicity languishes at the bottom of our energy star rating league table…We’ve shared our concerns about the service consumers are getting with both Solarplicity and Ofgem. It’s now up to Solarplicity to address these matters and start delivering for its customers.”

Debt

Voice of the Mirror – It’s time we reined in bailiffs

Daily Mirror, 16/02/2019, p8

The Daily Mirror echoed our call for bailiffs to be independently regulated in its leader column in Saturday’s newspaper.

It came after we, as part of the Taking Control group with 10 other debt organisations, submitted our evidence to the government, which is investigating bailiff reform.

The Mirror leader used our evidence that showed a sharp rise in the number of people who come to use seeking help with bailiffs.

“Bailiffs are a law unto themselves, overseen by a trade body which appears to have no interest in policing its profession,” the leader said.

“It is time for more robust enforcement of the industry. Bailiffs should be subject to an independent regulator, with a code of conduct.”

The Mirror also ran a story on Saturday on page 4 about a group of MPs, which is regularly briefed by Citizens Advice with our evidence, who are calling for a bailiff regulator.

11 charities say bailiffs continue to flout rules

Mail Online, 15/02/2019, George Nixon

Our response to the Ministry of Justice’s call for evidence on bailiff reform was also covered in the Mail Online.

The story revealed that polling carried out by ourselves and Stepchange found 86% of the public think that bailiffs should be independently regulated.

Gillian Guy said: “The Ministry of Justice must move to establish independent bailiff regulation to stop harm being inflicted on people, especially those in vulnerable situations due to their debt or ill health.

“We’re concerned that without a regulator, any attempts to improve practice in the sector will fail to protect people.

“They also need to create an independent complaints process, like in financial services, so complaints about bailiffs are dealt with impartially.”

‘It’s difficult for people to enforce their rights’

LBC Radio’s Nick Ferrari show, 15/02/2019

Our Policy Manager Joe Lane talked to Nick Ferrari on LBC radio on Friday about the problems with the bailiff industry.

“The reason why these rules aren’t working is they’re very difficult to enforce,” Joe said. “There’s no one to hold these bailiffs to account.

“Citizens Advice helped 40,000 people last year with problems related to bailiffs.”

Regional

Universal credit sees ‘crisis loans’ doubled

Shields Gazette, 20/02/2019, p.5, James Harrison

Applications for ‘crisis loans’ to help struggling families in South Tyneside have jumped by 200% since the introduction of Universal Credit. Local councillors have been told that since the rollout of Universal Credit rent arrears for council tenants claiming it have increased to more than £800,000.

The article mentions that from April, responsibility to help claimants manage their funds is being “handed over to” Citizens Advice.

Council puts more steps in place to deal with people in financial difficulty

 South Yorkshire Times, 19/02/2019, Stephanie Bateman

Karen Bothamley, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Doncaster Borough, spoke to the Times after their local authority signed up to the Citizens Advice-designed Council Tax Protocol.

The document is a plan designed to help people struggling to pay their council tax by engaging advice services early.

Karen said: “We recognise that councils are under huge pressures to collect council tax due to ever-increasing budget restraints. However, when we work with the council to identify those who need support from an early stage it helps to prevent further charges and worries further down the line.”

Thousands of Leeds households confronted by bailiffs over council tax debt

Leeds Live, 19/02/2019, Nathan Hyde

Image result for citizens advice council tax protocol

An investigation into council tax use of bailiffs has featured our advice on what to do when you fall behind on your council tax bills.

“If you ignore Council Tax arrears, it’s likely your council will take you to court quickly to get all the money at once. You’ll have to pay court costs and possibly bailiff fees as well as your debt, which can add hundreds of pounds to your bill,” the advice reads.

“Ask your council if they’ll let you pay your Council Tax in smaller amounts.”

In other news

The number of students declaring mental health problems on arrival at university has increased by 73 per cent in the last 3 years.

MPs are demanding urgent regulation of “digital gangsters” Facebook.

Rail operators have called for a fare rules shake-up.


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CAB News 15 February 2019

Image result for citizens advice call for bailiff regulation

Friday 15 February 2019

Our submission to the Ministry of Justice’s call for evidence into bailiff reform as part of ‘Taking Control’ includes new polling showing 8 in 10 people back our call for independent regulation.

National

Bailiffs

Public ‘demand rogue bailiffs be locked out’

The Times Online, 15/02/2019

As The Times reports, we’ve seen a 24% increase in the number of these issues since 2014.

Gillian said: “Almost five years on from the 2014 reforms, and with mounting evidence that bailiffs continue to flout the rules, government action is long overdue.

“The Ministry of Justice must move to establish independent bailiff regulation to stop harm being inflicted on people, especially those in vulnerable situations due to their debt or ill health. We’re concerned that without a regulator, any attempts to improve practice in the sector will fail to protect people.

“They also need to create an independent complaints process, like in financial services, so complaints about bailiffs are dealt with impartially.”

Policy Manager Joe Lane was also interviewed on LBC with Nick Ferrari saying “the ball is now in the Government’s court to act. There’s a really clear need for independent bailiff regulation and they shouldn’t miss this opportunity to act.”

Man wins fit-for-work appeal seven months after his death

The Guardian, 12/02/2019, p9, Haroon Siddique

The story of a man helped by Citizens Advice Ribble Valley to appeal his ESA fit-for-work decision, but who died seven months before the decision was announced has been covered by The Guardian.

Dad-of-two and grandfather Jeff Hayward was deemed unfit to work by his GP but was refused employment support allowance. He died of a heart attack in June last year, two weeks before his tribunal.

Katy Marshall, Chief Officer at Ribble Valley Citizens Advice, said: “This is far from being an isolated case as sadly we see many very incapacitated people who struggle to appeal against the decision that they are fit for work.

“We often hear: ‘But my doctor says I can’t work. How can they say that I can? They can and they do.”

This story was also covered in Mail Online.

Minor tweaks can’t address deep inhuman flaws of Universal Credit

The Guardian, 12/02/2019, p37, Patrick Butler

Image result for universal credit flaws

Figures from our report into managing money on Universal Credit was featured in an opinion piece by the Guardian’s Patrick Butler in this morning’s paper.

He reported our data that showed half of the people we helped at Citizens Advice with Universal Credit problems also had arrears on their rent or mortgage repayments, using our quote that said tweaks to the benefit made in 2017 had made a dent in the problem, but more was needed.

It’s a systematic scam’

Channel 5 Do the Right Thing, 08/02/2019

Our Director of Policy Matthew Upton appeared on Do the Right Thing, where he was asked by presenter Eamonn Holmes if the loyalty penalty was a scam.

“It’s a systematic scam,” Matthew said. “It’s whole industries that are reliant on us forgetting to do something.

“So your insurance company or your broadband company, they make money when you stay on the same contract and the price goes up little every year.

“They know how to design systems in a way that encourages people to stay in contracts. They understand that we all live very busy lives and we don’t quite get round to switching in ways that we plan to, and they exploit that.”

Regional

Debt

This is a story about people, and you need to read it

Manchester Evening News, 10/02/2019, Jennifer Williams

Image result for nigel morgan manchester evening news

Nigel Morgan, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Tameside District, spoke to the Manchester Evening News about growing demand on his services.

“The debt inquiries are shooting up, the welfare inquiries are shooting up. Form-filling has become so complex it’s unbelievable,” he said.

“Everybody seems to be suffering one way or another.”

In other news

More patients than ever before had to wait more than four hours for A&E treatment last month.

Three-quarters of local authorities are set to increase tax by more than 2.5% from April, the Local Government Information Unit has said.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has admitted a link between Universal Credit and use of food banks.


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CAB News 08 February 2019

 

Friday 08 February 2019

Our report into people on Universal Credit and how they manage money has been covered by national print and online media. The report found that about one in two of the people we help struggle to pay rent or mortgage payments during the initial five-week wait.

National

Universal Credit

Universal Credit claimants struggling to pay the rent

The Times (subscription required), 06/02/2019, p22, Greg Hurst

Our report into how Universal Credit claimants are managing their money was a page lead in the Times, which included an interview with our case study, David.

The story reported that half of the people we help with Universal Credit problems struggle to keep up with their rent and mortgage payments.

Gillian Guy, whose opinion piece – Brexit seems farcical when you can’t pay your bills – was published online and included in the Times’s Red Box email newsletter, said: “Despite some improvements, the wait for an initial payment still leaves half of the people we help unable to pay for essentials.

“With 1.6 million more people due to move on to universal credit this year, and seven million receiving it by the time it’s fully rolled out, it’s essential the government gets it right — and fast.”

David had to give up his job in the construction industry following a stroke. He applied for Universal Credit in November and has still not received his first payment, forcing him to borrow from family to pay for heating.

His mortgage payments have been frozen, but he worries he’ll have to sell his flat. “It is putting me under stress, not knowing whether or not I will be evicted,” he said.

Universal Credit claimants ‘don’t have enough to live’

i News, 06/02/2019, p13, Elizabeth Anderson

The reporter was also a page lead in the i newspaper, which revealed that we have helped 190,000 Universal Credit claimants since the new benefit was rolled out.

“Half the people we help with universal credit are still struggling to keep a roof over their heads while they wait for their first payment,” Gillian Guy said.

“Changes to the waiting period for first payment have improved things for many people, but our evidence shows they don’t go far enough. Universal Credit must continue to be reformed so it works for all claimants and leaves people with enough money to live on.”

Energy

Energy bills set to rise by more than £100 for 15 million households

The Guardian, 07/02/2019, p14, Adam Vaughan

Our response to Ofgem’s announcement that the energy price cap is set to rise by £117 was featured in an article by the Guardian.

The energy regulator said the rise was down to the increase in the cost of wholesale energy.

“As unwelcome as this news is, it’s likely that prices would be higher still without the cap and there are steps people can take to ease the strain on their bills,” Gillian Guy said.

15m energy bills will rise after Ofgem ups price cap

The Metro, 07/02/2019, p20, Holly Williams

The story was also covered in the online and print editions of the Metro, which too featured our response.

The cap announcement revealed the rise in bills for people on prepayment meters will go up by £106.

Gillian Guy agreed prices “would be higher still without the cap” but said there were “big savings to be made by switching supplier or tariff”.

This story was also featured in The Times, The Sun, The Telegraph and The Independent.

Trade

Mobile

How changing your mobile phone deal right now could save you £63 a year

TechRadar, 01/02/2019, Luke Edwards

Our research into the cost of unused data in sim-only mobile phone customers was covered by TechRadar.

We found that sim-only users waste an average of 2GB every month with their plan, affecting around 12 million consumers in the UK.

Gillian Guy said: “While we wait for industry to improve support for customers, individuals can take action too. Anyone looking to save money should check their data usage and see if they can switch to a cheaper deal that matches what they use.”

In other news

Ministers are “in denial” over social care funding.

Hotel booking sites have pledged to end misleading sales.

Parcel delivery firm Hermes has agreed to offer couriers paid holiday and guaranteed wage rates.


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One in two people Citizens Advice helps with Universal Credit struggle to pay for housing as they wait for payment

Friday 08 February 2019

People claiming Universal Credit are still struggling to pay for the roof over their heads, despite the wait for their first payment being reduced from 6 weeks to 5, new Citizens Advice data shows.

1 in 2 people the charity helped were in rent arrears or fell behind on their mortgage payments, the same number as when the wait for the first payment was longer.

Citizens Advice also found 60% of people it helped are taking out advances while they wait for payment.

The research also found that, following changes by Government in 2017, fewer people are falling behind on their bills or going without essentials during the wait period. Payment timeliness has improved – now 1 in 6 people are not paid in full and on time, while previously it was 1 in 4.

The report, Managing Money on Universal Credit, released today, reveals new analysis based on the 190,000 people Citizens Advice has helped with Universal Credit.

Among the people the charity helps with debt and Universal Credit:

  • Debt problems are more common for the people we help with Universal Credit than those claiming benefits under the previous system, with 24% of the people we helped with Universal Credit also seeking debt advice.

  • Nearly one in two (47%) have no money left after essential living costs (such as food, housing and transport) to pay creditors, or are spending more than they take in.

  • More than 4 in 5 (82%) hold priority debt such as council tax, rent arrears or mortgage payments, and energy debts.

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to make Universal Credit far more flexible to fit around people’s lives and to make sure people have enough money to live on.

It also wants Alternative Payment Arrangements to be more widely available, allowing for rent to be paid direct to a landlord, more frequent payments, and a payment to go to both members of a couple.

Just 3% of claimants currently receive more frequent payments, while just 20 households in the UK receive split payments to different family members.

Four in 10 of the people helped by Citizens Advice are aware of managed payments to landlords, while just 1 in 6 know payments can be made more frequently.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Half the people we help with a Universal Credit claim are still struggling to keep a roof over their heads while they wait for their first payment.

“Changes to the waiting period for first payment have improved things for many people, but our evidence shows they don’t go far enough.

“Universal Credit must continue to be reformed so it works for all claimants and leaves people with enough money to live on.”


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CAB News 1 February 2019

Man at computer

Friday 1 February 2019

Our call for an independent consumer champion for the mobile and broadband industries was highlighted by the BBC.

National

Telecomms

12 million mobile customers wasting £63 a year on a service they won’t use

Mirror Online, 31/01/2019, Emma Munbodh

Citizens Advice is calling for an independent consumer champion for the mobile and broadband industries to stand up to practices that exploit customers.

Gillian Guy said: “Mobile companies should be doing more to help their customers save on data they don’t use…This is another example of mobile companies overcharging their customers. It’s time for a consumer champion to stand up for people and push for change on issues like this.”

This story was also broadcast on TalkRadio, 5Live, and BBC Radio Wales.

Debt

Council Tax debt

Victoria Derbyshire, 30/01/2019, (34 mins)

Joe Lane, Principal Policy Manager, revealed that more than 90,000 people had visited Citizens Advice about Council Tax arrears in the last year, explaining that it’s the most common debt problem people come to Citizens Advice for.

He continued that councils are turning to bailiffs to recoup arrears, which adds additional fees to people’s debt, he explained that this makes “more difficult to get back on track.”

Housing

Fees Ban ‘should be just the start of more power for tenants’

Letting Agent Today, 28/01/2019, Graham Norwood

Citizens Advice responds to the Tenant Fees Bill, which last week passed its final stage in Parliament before Royal Assent.

In a statement Gillian Guy called it a “landmark moment.” She continued: “We look forward to working with the government to do even more to strengthen the hand of the growing number of renters in a market where they have little bargaining power.”

Regional

Benefits

Grandad’s benefits struggle parallels ‘I, Daniel Blake’ film

Lancashire Times, 23/01/2019, Amy Farnworth

Grandfather, Jeff Hayward, died in June having spent 18 months fighting a decision that he was fit to work. Citizens Advice Ribble Valley helped his family overturn the decision.

Manager of Ribble Valley CAB, Katy Marshall, said: “Based on the same medical evidence provided to [DWP] by his GP two years and three months earlier, they found he was entitled to the highest rate of benefit…For him to go from zero points to 15, which is the highest number of points on the benefit scale seems ridiculous.”

Universal Credit: Harrogate residents “carrying cost” of new benefits

Yorkshire Post, 25/01/2019, Alexander Beard

Two and a half years after the full roll-out Universal Credit in the area Edward Pickering, CEO of the Citizens Advice, Craven and Harrogate District, said that residents continue to face problems.

He said that “those who are already on Universal Credit are still carrying the debt caused by the earlier problems, they haven’t been compensated for the, then, huge cost of ringing the helpline to sort DWP mistakes or the extra week with no money.”

In other news

UK house prices grow fastest in north of England and Midlands.

The family accused of antisocial behaviour while on their holiday to New Zealand have returned home. They claim they will seek advice from “Citizens Advice people and the human rights people.”

Austerity cuts have fallen hardest on deprived communities in the north of England.

 


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