Category Archives: Coronavirus

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CAB News 22 May 2020

Landlords: Rental Property Making a Loss

Friday 22 May 2020

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to ‘stand by its promise’ that no renter should lose their home because of coronavirus. Our press release issued yesterday is here.

This morning we issued this statement in response to the Financial Conduct Authority’s announcement of an extension to the mortgage payment holiday scheme. We welcome the proposals but stress that tenants should not be left behind.

National

Household Bills

How to get help paying your council tax as over two million are behind on bills

The Sun, 21/05/2020, Levi Winchester

More than two million homes are feared to have fallen behind on their council tax bills as a direct result of the coronavirus outbreak.This is the staggering warning from three of the UK’s largest debt charities, reports The Sun.

Bailiff visits have currently been banned due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. But Citizens Advice, Money Advice Trust and StepChange fear council tax enforcement measures will restart soon.

Dame Gillian Guy said: “Coronavirus has caused huge financial uncertainty for local councils. But this pressure must not trigger a wave of aggressive debt collection against people who are themselves struggling to pay their bills.

“Aggressive collection drives vulnerable people further into debt and is inefficient.”

The story was also carried by a raft of personal finance websites including Your Money, Credit Strategy and Yahoo Finance.

Debt

Coronavirus forces two million people to fall behind on council tax bills

The Mirror, 21/05/2020, Mikey Smith

9 in 10 local authorities planning to increase council tax ...

Citizens Advice and other charities are warning millions of people face debt collectors and hardship if urgent action isn’t taken to prevent households falling off a “cliff edge.”

Dame Gillian Guy said: “Coronavirus has caused huge financial uncertainty for local councils. But this pressure must not trigger a wave of aggressive debt collection against people who are themselves struggling to pay their bills. Aggressive collection drives vulnerable people further into debt and is inefficient.”

Private Eye reports on the “cliff edge” faced by renters and says the “stress building up in the housing system will come to a head at the end of June.”

The magazine quotes our figure of 2.6 million tenants who are behind, or expect to be behind, on their rent.

These issues were highlighted from a Welsh perspective by Head of Policy and Campaigns Wales, Rhiannon Evans on ITV’s evening news programme in the principality.

She said 300,000 people in Wales had fallen behind on at least one household bill and a third of tenants had missed a rent payment or expected to.

Rhiannon said: “We’re really concerned that people are starting to build up problem debt and it’ll really come to a head in a few months time when the various schemes and protections that are currently in place begin to be withdrawn.”

She said Citizens Advice Cymru was asking the Welsh government to fund local authorities to give council tax breaks and to extend protections for renters so families in the private rented sector don’t face a “cliff edge” in a couple of months time.

Welfare

Citizens Advice on hand to provide benefits help

BBC Radio1, Newsbeat, 19/05/2020

Policy Manager Minesh Patel spoke to Newsbeat about Universal Credit. Minesh said “when you apply for Universal Credit most people will apply online. You’ll have to provide some details – like date of birth, earnings and your household situation.”

Minesh explained that “some people will be waiting for longer than others,” but if you urgently need the money you can apply for an advanced payment which is a loan that will later be recouped from your eventual Universal Credit payments.

Father-of-two ineligible for coronavirus job retention scheme ‘living off credit cards’

ITV News, 19/05/2020

James Horton, father-of-two, who found himself ineligible for government support schemes during the coronavirus pandemic has been left “living off credit cards”. James’ hardship comes as latest figures revealed that in April there were 103,869 unemployment claimants in Wales, compared with 58,576 in March.

Rhiannon Evans, Head of Policy and Campaigns for Citizens Advice Cymru, said: “These figures show just how financially devastating the pandemic has been for households in Wales. Our advisers have helped over 18,000 people in Wales since lockdown began – with Universal Credit the most common issue.

“Even with the various support schemes put in place by the Welsh and UK Governments, thousands of families are still struggling to make ends meet.”

Employment

Unemployment benefit claims soared by 856,500 in April as coronavirus crisis hit UK jobs, ONS figures show

iNews, 19/05/2020, Ruchira Sharma

TradingHUB Forex Trading | Charles Clifton | UK CPI ...

Unemployment figures have soared during the coronavirus pandemic, with 856,500 more people making benefit claims last month new data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows.

Matt, 29, from Devon, lost his job in February: “My boss rang me and said there’s no job for you at the moment, there’s no hours.” Matt sought help from his local Citizens Advice who have supported him in seeking redundancy pay from his employer.

Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said “Each job loss can mean a household struggling to make rent, cover their bills or pay for the food.

“With millions struggling to keep their heads above water, the Government must ensure people can access adequate support through the benefits system and don’t face eviction or harsh debt collection as a result of this pandemic.”

In other news

UK competition watchdog investigates holiday firms over refunds.

Coronavirus: Benefit claims fraud could be £1.5bn.

Firms slash entry-level jobs by almost quarter owing to coronavirus.


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CAB News 15 May 2020

Accessing advice just as it is needed most | Citizens ...

Friday 15 May 2020

Chief Executive Gillian Guy’s letter on shielding groups has been published by the Guardian and Independent. Our reaction to the extension of the government’s furlough scheme has also been included in the Financial Times.

National

Housing

Coronavirus: what if I can’t pay my rent, bills or council tax?

Good Housekeeping, 13/05/2020, Susanne Norris

Amy Hughes, housing expert at Citizens Advice offers help if you find yourself unable to pay your rent during the coronavirus crisis: “If you rent from a private landlord and you’re struggling to pay rent, talk to your landlord straight away.”

“Explain the situation and ask about the possibility of more time to pay, a temporary reduction in rent, or the option to catch up on any missed payments by paying in installments. If you can’t come to an agreement with your landlord, it’s a good idea to pay what you can afford and keep a record of what you offered.”

Shielding

Letters

The Guardian, 14/05/2020

Furlough scheme to be extended - Alpha Newspaper Group

Chief Executive Gillian Guy’s letter on shielded groups was published in the Guardian and Independent: “The chancellor’s decision to extend furlough and offer a phased return to work is potentially a further lifeline in this crisis (Chancellor extends UK furlough scheme until end of October, 12 May). Yet we must remember that 2.5 million people in the shielded group have been told to stay at home. And they are not always receiving the support they need.

“Our frontline advisers have already seen cases where vulnerable people have been denied furlough despite working in jobs that put them in face-to-face contact with others. Government guidance is clear that anyone can be furloughed, but it’s just that – guidance. Unless vulnerable workers have a right to be furloughed if they can’t work safely, some will continue to face the impossible choice of paying the bills or protecting their health.

Employment

Can you be made redundant while on furlough?

Metro.co.uk, 12/05/2020, Lizzie Thomson

While the aim of the scheme is to retain jobs during the pandemic, employers can still make employees redundant if they are on furlough.

According to Citizens Advice, if you’re entitled to redundancy pay, it will be calculated using the amount you earned before you were furloughed. Their website offers advice on whether employees are entitled to redundancy pay and, if so, how much.

Those who have been employed at a business for longer than two years are entitled to ‘statutory’ redundancy pay. But how much will vary depending on age and length of working –  this is also capped at 20 years. There’s also ‘contractual’ redundancy pay, which Citizens Advice explains is the ‘extra money your contract says you can get on top of the statutory amount.’

Employment

At risk workers must have right to be furloughed, says charity

ITV.com, 08/05/2020,

 Citizens Advice is calling for the most vulnerable workers to have a right to be furloughed if their work requires them to breach public health advice.

ITV.com reported our findings that those in the shielded group – told to stay indoors and limit contact with others – are having their health put at risk by employers not furloughing them even though they are eligible for the Government support.

A food shop employee who came to us for help said: “It’s just a catch-22. I’m damned if I work and I’m damned if I don’t go to work.

“I’m struggling to pay my normal bills and buy things like food. I’ve had to sign up to get food parcels as I just don’t have enough money.”

Dame Gillian Guy said: “The shielded group, and the people they live with, are likely to have to remain at home for longer than others.

“These are the people who need the protection of the furlough scheme the most so it’s essential they’re able to use it.”

The Guardian also included our research on its live blog. The full press release is here.

Our advice on returning to work as the lockdown eases was featured in reports in the Independent and The Telegraph (£).

Scams

Scam warning – how customers can reduce risk during coronavirus crisis

Daily Express, 08/05/2020, Jess Sheldon

Fraudsters are exploiting people’s fears amid a new flood of coronavirus related cyber scams, reports the Daily Express.

A cross-governmental ‘Cyber Aware’ campaign, lead by the National Cyber Security Centre, has been launched.

Dame Gillian Guy said: “Unfortunately scammers see these uncertain and worrying times as an opportunity to prey on people. We’re encouraging the public to report any suspicious emails to the NCSC’s new takedown service.

“Through our own Scams Action service – made up of a dedicated helpline and special tool which offer advice for people affected by online scams – we see first-hand the devastating impact these terrible crimes have.

“This initiative will help take down even more harmful sites, which means fewer victims”.

The Sunday Telegraph (£) also ran a story about scammers taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic.

The paper said there has been a resurgence in fraudsters writing letters or cold calling people since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Scammers have taken advantage of the fact that many older people currently have limited contact with relatives who would normally prevent them from falling foul of such schemes.

Our Consumer Advice Expert, Kate Hobson, said: “If someone you don’t know knocks on your door, check their ID and verify it by calling the company they are working for after finding the contact number yourself.”

In other news

Teachers’ unions are to meet the government’s scientific advisers later to seek assurances on opening schools in England from June.

Re-starting NHS services could take many months, experts say.

Care homes have been “almost compelled” to take people who have not been tested for coronavirus.