Category Archives: Benefits

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CAB News 16 August 2019

Friday 16 August 2019

The HuffPost has published a comment piece written by Gillian Guy that calls on the new Prime Minister to make changes that would improve the lives of the people we help.

National

Advocy

A Message To Boris Johnson: Lift The Gloom For People Struggling On Benefits

HuffPost, 09/08/2019

An opinion piece by Gillian Guy written to the new Prime Minister about the changes we would like to see the new government make to help the people we see was published in HuffPost.

In the piece, Gillian called on the PM to address issues raised by people on Universal Credit, those in debt, and those affecting consumers.

“In our 80 years of existence we’ve seen how political changes can bring opportunity to tackle intractable problems in new ways,” Gillian wrote.

“We’ve worked with the governments of 16 prime ministers to help solve these problems and achieve tangible change for people.

“We want to turn the attention of the 17th to matters beyond Brexit, to help millions of people across the country sleep better at night.”

Consumer

How cancelling your direct debit can leave you with a big bill

Daily Express, 15/08/2019, Lloyd Johnson

Our advice on finding the best deal for your car insurance was quoted at length in the Daily Express.

The paper warned that some motorists have been caught out when cancelling their direct debit.

Our website says: “Cancelling a direct debit does not cancel your insurance policy.

“If you do this you will still owe your insurer the premiums. You must contact your insurer to cancel the policy.”

Energy

Are small energy suppliers safe to use?

The Mirror, 14/08/2019, Emma Munbodh

Citizens Advice is “a good place to start” when considering switching energy supplier said The Mirror in an article looking at smaller gas and electricity firms.

The paper also used research from our Picking up the Pieces report which says households could face a £172 million bill after the collapse of a dozen domestic suppliers.

Our energy star rating which evaluates energy companies on a range of measures including customer service can be found here.

Advice

One in six families ‘cut back on essentials’ to pay for school uniforms – how to claim up to £150 from your council

The Sun, 11/08/2019, Hollie Borland

Our advice on how to get help with the cost of school uniform has been featured on The Sun’s website in an article which says that the number of parents struggling with the cost is on the rise.

There is help available from some local authorities, and you can find out if your council offers a grant by checking its website, says the report.

It adds that Citizens Advice also recommends asking the school for help, as they may be aware of local charities that can offer assistance.

Debt

Mental health issues and debt: kindness is not good enough

The Observer, 11/08/2019, p.56, Emily Reynolds

Our research which found that mentally ill people pay on average £1,110 to £1,550 more for services per year was quoted in The Observer.

The article said understanding of how depression and similar difficulties can contribute to money problems has increased, but people still aren’t always able to access the help they need.

Andrew Dickens, who had depression, told the paper: “It all became a nasty circle: my debt fuelled my illness, my illness made me build up more debt, and so on. The problem was, my mental health issues prevented me from confronting it.”

Travel

Gatwick Airport strikes called off this weekend amid union update on other August walkouts

Express Online, 09/08/2019

Our advice on what rights you have if your flights are cancelled due to strike action were covered by the Express Online.

“If your flight has been cancelled due to airport staff striking, it’s unlikely you’ll receive compensation as it would be considered ‘extraordinary circumstances’. These are outside of the airline’s control,” the advice read.

“You should contact your airline as you should be offered the choice between a refund and a replacement flight.”

In other news

Major retailers call on chancellor to save high street.

National Grid ‘had three blackout near-misses in three months’.

There has been a huge rise in complaints about gambling companies.

Shackles and restraints have been used on hundreds of people deported from the UK.


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CAB News 09 August 2019

Image result for boardmasters festival

Friday 09 August 2019

The cancellation of Boardmasters festival appears across many outlets, with many referring to advice on our website.

National

Boardmasters refuses to say if it’ll offer refunds for last minute cancellation

Mirror.co.uk, 07/08/2019, James Andrews

Boardmasters festival in Cornwall has been cancelled just hours before it was due to open. The 53,000 people affected are still to hear whether they’ll be refunded.

Citizens Advice says if you bought your ticket from an official seller you can get a refund if the organiser cancels, moves or reschedules the event. The organiser will tell you how to get a refund.

Our advice also appeared in the Sun and the Evening Standard.

Energy

15 million households could see gas and electricity bills drop as Ofgem cuts price cap on some tariffs.

Channel 5, 08/08/2019

Director of External Affairs, Katie Martin, spoke to Channel 5 about Ofgem’s planned cuts to price caps. The segment states that if you’re part of the carbon-friendly ‘district heating’ energy scheme you may not notice much difference.

Katie said: “The problem with heat networks is that they’re unregulated, so the services can be really variable. For example some people experience really poor service standards and there’s very little they can do to complain about this.”

The costs of decarbonisation must not hit those who can least afford it

Utility Week, 02/08/2019, Gillian Guy

An op-ed in Gillian’s name has been published in Utility Week. She writes: “The UK’s decision to legislate for a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050 has major implications for the people we help every day.”

“At the moment, most of the costs of the UK’s existing efforts to decarbonise are paid for through people’s bills, not taxes…By choosing to pay for these policies in this way, the costs disproportionately fall on the poorest in society.”

Citizens Advice recommends that “the Treasury establish an independent commission that would work through the implications of how low-carbon transition should be paid for, and present recommendations to government on how to proceed.”

Housing

Letting fees ban: Renters confused after change in law

BBC Online, 05/08/2019, Lora Jones

The BBC used our data and advice in a story about the renters’ experience with tenant fees following the ban on letting agent charges on June 1.

Enquiries to Citizens Advice about tenant fees rose by 54%, to 430, in the month after the law was introduced, the article reports.

Rachael Gore, our Housing Expert, told the BBC that tenants should question all upfront payments and ask for receipts from their landlord or letting agent.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit and the Managed Migration Pilot

BBC Radio 4, You and Yours, 02/08/2019, 12:51:30

Minesh Patel, Principal Policy Manager for Families, Welfare and Work, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme to talk about Universal Credit and the Managed Migration Pilot.

Minesh says that Citizens Advice is “working closely with DWP to help shape the early stages of the Managed Migration Pilot.” He continues, explaining that the charity has “shared evidence into the challenges people face with Universal Credit.”

Regional

Welfare

Pensioners urged to claim benefits to save free TV licence

Sheffield Star, 06/08/2019, Lucy Ashton

Image result for Pensioners urged to claim benefits to save free TV licence

Sheffield Citizens Advice says many over the age of 75 are reluctant to claim Pension Credit.

Chris Walker, Office Manager of Citizens Advice Spital Hill, told a council meeting that pensioners would boost their own finances, adding “There’s quite a large proportion of people who don’t claim it and that equates to £3 billion a year nationally.”

Settled Status

York’s EU citizens told to take action to secure rights post Brexit

York Press, 03/08/2019, Mike Laycock

Citizens Advice York says it is ready to help about 8,000 EU citizens in the city achieve ‘settled status’ after Brexit.

Chief Executive, Simon Topham, has warned that EU nationals could suffer a range of problems if they don’t get such status including the potential loss of services and benefits: “There are around 8,000 EU-born citizens living in York and most of them will need to take action to secure their rights.” Simon added: “If we leave without a deal, the deadline for this is December 31, 2020.”

In other news

Developers have been accused of holding back on building tens of thousands of homes a year despite a relaxation of planning laws designed to address the housing shortage.

The price of energy is set to fall for millions of British households this October after Ofgem has announced lower price caps.

Virgin Media has announced it will freeze prices and always give best deal to over 100,000 vulnerable customers.

The UK’s retailers have reported the worst July on record.

Facebook has been urged to shut groups seeking fake Amazon reviews.

EU citizens are being made destitute after being turned down for Universal Credit despite having the legal right to reside in the UK.


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CAB News 12 July 2019

Image result for decarbonisation of homes

Friday 12 July 2019

Our report, Keeping Warm: The Future of Heat, was published this morning, looking at the decarbonisation of heating homes and businesses.

Coverage has been picked up by a number of national broadcast and online media.

National

Energy

Government must protect consumers during decarbonisation – Citizens Advice

Mail Online, 12/07/2019

Our warning that a lack of credible plan to decarbonise the way homes and business are heated risks failing consumers was picked up by the Mail Online.

We are calling on the Government to establish an independent commission to determine the fairest way to pay for the energy transition, including the shift to low-carbon heat.

Gillian Guy said: “The way we heat our homes needs to undergo a major transformation. How we manage that process, and fairly distribute the costs, needs the urgent attention of government.

“An independent commission is the only way to make sure the pathway to net zero is assessed in a rigorous, transparent and timely way.

“Consumers must be at the heart of the process, with the right protections built in for them now.”

The story was also picked up in the Daily Mirror.

It revealed there are currently 14,000 heat networks in the UK, which serve 500,000 customers.

The story included our concern that handling complaints such as high or incorrect back bills from the 2% of households who already use the unregulated networks.

Gillian said: “We need to get these decisions right now to prevent the bad practice of today becoming the standard practice of tomorrow.”

Consumer

The loyalty penalty

FT Adviser, 10/07/2019, Jeff Prestridge

An opinion piece in the FT Adviser about the loyalty penalty praised Citizens Advice and featured comments from our Chief Executive Gillian Guy.

It mentioned little had been done about the loyalty penalty for years “before the good people at Citizens Advice decided to intervene”, firing off a super-complaint to the CMA with research that showed consumers were overpaying by £4.1 billion.

The author then referred to Gillian’s opinion article in the Mail on Sunday in which she expressed her disappointment in the lack of progress in tackling the issue.

“Time is ticking. The FCA and Ofcom need to step up and show us how they are going to stop companies exploiting their loyal customers and put an end to this systematic scam.”

Mortgages

FCA ‘not brave enough’ to tackle mortgage prisoners

FT Adviser, 10/07/2019, Imogen Tew

Our Principal Policy Manager Morgan Wild was quoted in an FT Adviser story about mortgage prisoners.

Speaking at the Westminster Business Forum on Wednesday, Morgan said the Financial Conduct Authority had not done enough to tackle the issue, but the threat of legal action was a constraint.

Morgan said: “There is a massive fear of regulators being taken to court, and that has a chilling effect on pro-consumer enforcement and action that could take to address some problems.”

Citizens Advice: FCA should make providers responsible for expensive SVRs

Mortgage Introducer, 10/07/2019, Ryan Bembridge

Morgan’s appearance at the Westminster reception was also covered by mortgage trade press, which focused on our call to make service providers responsible for ensuring customers are not switched to high-cost tariffs.

“Too often all the onus is put on the consumer,” Morgan said.

“These are firms who have a responsibility to treat customers fairly and we have been so far disappointed by the lack of regulatory action to point that point across, to really examine what they are doing to improve outcomes for loyal customers.”

Scams

How to avoid marketplace rip-offs

Women’s Own, 15/07/2019, p38, Rebecca Gamble

Our advice on how to protect yourself when shopping online was featured in Women’s Own magazine.

The article also featured our statistics that revealed 12,000 problems were brought to us in 2017, an increase of 35 per cent in four years.

Our advice says: “Check the product details, including photos, the description, cost of the item, delivery charges, contact details for the seller, and any cancellation rights.

“Also, is it being sold by a trader or private seller. You’ll have fewer rights buying from the latter.”

Our advice on tax relief on pensions was included in an article in the Express Online.

“You can get tax relief on pension payments you make into a company (occupational) pension, personal pension or stakeholder pension, as long as HMRC has approved the pension scheme,” our advice states.

Government scheme to recover unpaid council tax launches

Credit Connect, 08/07/2019

A story on a new pilot scheme by local councils to deduct people’s council tax debt from their income has included a comment from our Chief Executive, Gillian Guy.

“Our research shows harsh collection methods added half a billion pounds in fees to people’s council tax debts in 2016/17 alone,” Gillian said.

“It’s encouraging to see local authorities trying to reduce bailiff use but any collections must be affordable and should not leave people on low incomes with too little to live on.

“The government needs to fundamentally reform the regulations governing how local authorities collect debts and give them more flexibility.

“People should not be charged a full year’s bill after a single monthly payment is missed or threatened with imprisonment.”

In other news

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has said the benefits system for terminally ill people will be reviewed.

Danger fridges “should be removed from stores”.

The NHS has teamed up with Amazon to provide health advice via the company’s Alexa voice assistant.

Waiting lists for routine surgery have risen by up to 50% in England because senior doctors say they cannot afford to work extra shifts.


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CAB News 05 July 2019

Friday 05 July 2019

Our research on debt and the energy supply market featured in the national media today.

National

Debt

Councils look to take unpaid tax from debtors’ wages

FT.com (subscription required), 04/07/2019, Naomi Rovnick

Our research showing the average person who approaches Citizen Advice over problems with council tax payments has just £14 of monthly disposable income, has been quoted by the Financial Times.

The government is considering allowing local authorities to deduct unpaid council tax debts directly from people’s wages, in a move that could shore up councils’ finances and reduce their reliance on bailiffs, says the FT.

Energy

Britain’s energy regulator rolls out tougher rules for new suppliers

Reuters, 04/07/2019, Susanna Twidale

Picking up the Pieces – our recent report that estimated the unpaid costs relating to the collapse of 10 energy firms since January 2018 at £172 million pounds – has been used by Reuters.

The news agency used the figures in its story about new regulations governing companies preparing to enter the energy market.

The heat is on: Swap your energy supplier this summer before the best deals disappear

Mail Online, 30/06/2019, Laura Shannon

Image result for the heat is on energy

Our energy star rating is quoted in the Financial Mail on Sunday, and on its partner website This is Money, as part of a report on how to get the best fuel deal.

“Customers need to take care about which supplier they stick with or switch to,” said the article.

“The latest rankings from charity Citizens Advice show that a quarter of energy companies fail to achieve half marks for customer service.

Its star ratings are based on complaints, call waiting times and ease of switching.”

Energy consumers switched to costly deals after firms go bust

The Times, 01/07/2019, p.2, Emily Gosden (subscription charge may apply)

Our report, Picking up the Pieces, into the costs to consumers from the collapse of 10 energy suppliers since January 2018, was quoted by The Times.

Energy correspondent Emily Gosden was reporting on how customers of failed energy suppliers often find themselves transferred to an expensive default tariff when they are switched to a replacement energy supply company.

The article then moved on to discuss the wider issue of dealing with energy suppliers who go bust:

“Citizens Advice said last month that customers faced a potential bill of £172 million for covering credit balances and other unpaid industry debts for defunct suppliers.”

National Grid completes sale of gas network to CIC-backed group

FT.com, 30/06/2019, Donato Paolo Mancini (subscription charge may apply)

The Financial Times drew on our earlier research into energy networks, in a story about the sale of the gas company Cadent to a Chinese backed consortium.

“Consumer group Citizens Advice has complained of what it calls “eye-watering” and “unjustified” profits, with network distribution costs making up a large part of the average household energy bill,” said the FT.

Universal Credit

Thousands of dying people missing out on benefits because illnesses not deemed critical enough

The Sun, 03/07/2019, Katie Binns

Citizens Advice gave the example of a terminally-ill single mother who was forced to stop working due to her illness to illustrate the problem of the “six-month rule.”

The mum fell into nearly £3,000 of rent arrears while waiting for a Universal Credit payment and had to rely on the help of friends and family.

The Sun says tens of thousands of terminally ill people and their families are ending up in debt because of the “outdated” rule that you must only have six months or less to live to get fast access to benefits.

A “damning” new report by MPs is calling on the government to ditch the stipulation, which they say was invented by politicians, and has no clinical evidence to support its use.

The Huffington Post also used our case study in its coverage of the story.

Consumer Advice

Can you get a refund if a gig has bad sound?

The Guardian, 29/06/2019, p.34, Miles Brignall and Rupert Jones

Why do so many stadium and arena gigs seem to be plagued by terrible sound? And what are your rights when it comes to getting a refund, asked The Guardian.

The paper quoted the advice on our website which makes it clear: “you should complain if there’s a problem with the quality of the sound”. It says you should first contact the ticket seller or venue for a refund.

In other news

A quarter of UK betting shops could close, with 12,000 jobs at risk.

One in five councils face drastic spending cuts within months.

Mobile users can now switch providers with one simple text.

Crown estate faces tenants’ anger over rent hikes, evictions and repair delays.