Category Archives: news

Notice of AGM

IPSWICH AND DISTRICT CITIZENS ADVICE BUREAU

(Company number 3438957)

NOTICE OF ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING TO BE HELD AT

2.00PM ON 23 SEPTEMBER 2020

(In accordance with regulations introduced in the light of the pandemic (The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act), the Annual General Meeting will be held electronically and will only deal with the formal matters which are required to be dealt with at the Annual General Meeting.

Charities call for council tax reform ahead of August debt D-Day

money
Photo by Negative Space from StockSnap

Government changes could risk creating a debt D-Day of 23 August

Over 1.3 million households nationally are likely to have built up council tax arrears because of coronavirus

Carers and people who’ve been shielding are likely to be hit hardest

Following legislation that came into effect on Wednesday 24 June, the ban on face-to-face bailiff collection will now come to an end on 23 August. This is the same day as protections from eviction end for people in the private rented sector and comes at a time when redundancies are expected to rise.

According to figures from the Local Government Association, over £500m of council tax has gone unpaid during the coronavirus outbreak, a figure which could mean over 1.3million households in council tax arrears. While many councils have been supporting residents during the pandemic, their precarious financial position – and the government’s restrictive rules – may leave them little choice about calling in the bailiffs in August.

Citizens Advice in Ipswich, Babergh and Mid Suffolk are pleased that the Shared Revenues Partnership that is in charge of Council Tax Collections for these three Councils have signed up to the Citizen Advice Council Tax protocol. This shows a commitment to making council tax collection fairer. But the current government regulations tie their hands on how fair and flexible they can be – that’s why we’re calling for reforms of these rules.

We will work with the Shared Revenues Partnership to support residents who have fallen behind with payments in these difficult times with the aim of reducing the need for formal enforcement proceedings which can ramp up the costs and make clearing the debt even more difficult.

Since January, the 3 local Citizens Advice have dealt with over 330 issues of council tax arrears (Ipswich has dealt with over 187 issues of council tax arrears) and we know that figure will rise when the Councils start to contact households who have fallen behind.

Nicky Willshere Chief Executive at Citizens Advice Ipswich said:

“The more that can be done to support households in arrears BEFORE bailiffs are called in to play, the more cost-effective and efficient the process can be. We continue to urge the Councils to use Bailiff enforcement as a LAST RESORT rather than an automatic first step.”

Residents really don’t need to worry alone – we are here to help. We have teams of qualified Money Advisers ready to support with these and other debts. We can also help households make claims for Council Tax Reduction or Discretionary Housing Payments”

Research from Citizens Advice has shown that council tax arrears have hit some groups particularly hard. People who are behind on their council tax because of Covid-19 are twice as likely to have been shielding or at increased risk of the virus. They are also four times more likely to be caring for older family members.

The UK’s three largest debt charities – Citizens Advice, Money Advice Trust and Stepchange – last week wrote to the Local Government Minister to call for urgent action on council tax. The charities are urging the government to implement simple measures that could protect millions of people from the prospect of spiralling council tax debt.

The charities are warning of potentially huge problems for those behind on council tax. Outdated government regulations mean councils often resort to bailiffs to collect outstanding debts. These rules drive councils to use court-based enforcement to recover council tax arrears, which is both harmful and inefficient. In 2018-19, the use of bailiffs added £200 million of fees to people’s debts, but councils recovered less than 30p out of every pound of debt referred. Councils are also the largest users of bailiffs – 1.4 million council tax debts were passed to bailiffs by councils in England and Wales in 2018/19.

Central government reform is needed to resolve this problem before the bailiff ban is lifted. The charities are calling for simple changes to the council tax regulations to give councils more flexibility to recover debts outside the court process. This decision can be enacted by ministers without taking up precious parliamentary time and has been supported by local councils.

Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“The government now has a two-month window of opportunity to make changes to council tax collection that will help millions of people facing the prospect of spiralling debt. Over the last few years, Citizens Advice has helped hundreds of thousands of people with council tax arrears.

“Using bailiffs to collect debts is a blunt tool that’s extraordinarily damaging to those on the receiving end, and economically ineffective for councils. Former government ministers, backbenchers, charities, campaigners and councils themselves are lining up to call for change on this issue.

“People struggling with their council tax bills could now face a nervous summer waiting for the knock at the door. The government must take the opportunity to act to help people avoid this.”

Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said:

“There is an urgent need for changes to the way that council tax is collected before bailiff visits are allowed to resume. The government must act to change the rules to ensure local authorities collect council tax debts in a fair and compassionate way, giving people the time they need to repay without unnecessarily resorting to bailiffs.

“Sadly, millions of people have already fallen behind with their bills – these changes are needed now to prevent a bad financial situation being made worse by heavy-handed debt collection practices.”

Phil Andrew, chief executive of StepChange Debt Charity, said:

“As things stand, there is a fundamental disconnect between the way in which enforcement against debts like council tax is being restarted and the way in which regulated lenders are expected and required to behave by the FCA, with a clear focus on realistic affordability and fair treatment. It’s simply not right that, after everything we’ve experienced through the pandemic, the resumption of council tax debt collection and enforcement seems set to resume on a “business as usual” basis.

“Improving council tax debt collection needs to be part of the Government’s wider post-Covid financial recovery strategy. If ever there was a time to grasp the nettle and reform the outdated mechanisms that hinder local authorities from adopting a more compassionate, flexible and realistic way of reaching affordable repayment plans on council tax, now is surely that moment.”

Citizens Advice Ipswich thanks its wonderful volunteers for their dedication

National Volunteers Week 1 – 7 June

Citizens Advice Ipswich has continued giving advice to those in need throughout the coronavirus pandemic thanks to the tireless dedication of its staff and volunteers.

The team quickly rallied to ensure as many people as possible could be helped over the phone or via email.

As part of Volunteers’ Week, which runs from 1 to 7 June, Ipswich Citizens Advice wants to thank volunteers for their contribution not only during this exceptional time, but throughout the year.

Over the past year, 53 volunteers at Citizens Advice Ipswich have contributed around 200 hours each week. Since we have adapted to working from our homes, a small number of volunteers have taken a back seat due to other commitments, but the vast majority have been able to continue to help clients remotely, with the support of the supervisors, trainer and technical support staff.

In the last year, Citizens Advice Ipswich has helped 5,000 people with 28,000 issues such as debt, housing, benefit and employment.

Lilian, volunteer at Citizens Advice Ipswich said:

“I am really grateful to Citizens Advice Ipswich for giving me structure and purpose at this time when so much regular activity has been taken away due to Covid 19. I have been able to help clients by phone from home, with support from the supervisors who really support us. I am spending a little longer on the phone with clients than I would be when working from Tower Street, maybe because we all like to speak to someone.”

Martin C, who started volunteering in February 2019 says:

“I chose to volunteer with Citizens Advice Ipswich as I was keen to support the local community. I wanted to use my life skills and experience to help other people and to gain a better understanding of how volunteering can benefit both the individual and our clients. Since joining in February 2019 I have acquired a greater depth of knowledge regarding a wide range of issues including; housing, benefits, debts, and work related problems. The training has been comprehensive and has equipped me to, both, assist Clients seeking advice, and remain impartial whilst doing so. Colleagues have been very welcoming and keen to help me learn.”

“Continuing to volunteer with Citizens Advice Ipswich during the coronavirus outbreak has been hugely challenging but deeply rewarding. I have had to adapt to new methods of working remotely from the office and acquire new technology skills which, at times, has proved to be quite stretching. The feeling that you are continuing to support people through these unprecedented times and, for what are for many, life changing decisions has been truly humbling.”

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“This year we were particularly delighted by the partnership with the Law School at the University of Suffolk, which saw 6 law students join our ranks to train into advice roles which has given them great insights into how the law impacts on people in their everyday lives.”

Bob Boxall-Hunt, Chairman at Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“Throughout the year our wonderful volunteers contribute their time and energy to make a huge difference to people’s lives and help keep our vital service running.

“Whether they have been able to continue in their role recently, or have paused their volunteering, their support throughout the year has been truly invaluable.”

“As well as helping people through the pandemic related issues, our clients continue to need help with a range of issues that go on in the background and our volunteers and advice workers are here to help five days a week.”

“I cannot thank them enough for their continued dedication. We really couldn’t do it without them.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice Ipswich contact us via the contact page on this website. There is also information on our volunteering page and more information about the types of roles we offer on the national Citizens Advice website.

Time for the government to “stand by its promise” to renters

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood, StockSnapPhoto by Suzy Hazelwood from StockSnap

The government has just one month to act before measures protecting private renters from evictions proceedings expire.

Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government previously said that ‘no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home’, before announcing a temporary pause on repossession action. This pause is currently scheduled to end on 25 June.

Citizens Advice is warning this presents a ‘cliff-edge’ that will pitch some renters into long-term debt or homelessness.

The charity says the government must act now to prevent larger-scale problems and save people from losing their homes.

Research by the charity earlier this month suggested that 2.6 million private renters had already missed, or expected to miss, a rent payment because of coronavirus.

In the two months since lockdown began, Citizens Advice has helped over 10,000 people with issues around the private rented sector. Of these, over 1,000 of their issues related to possible eviction, despite the government’s protections.

In Ipswich, we have assisted over 200 people with housing and rent arrears issues since the lockdown.

The charity is calling for additional protections for renters vulnerable to eviction because of coronavirus. These include:

Accelerating the process to end section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions

Putting in place temporary changes allowing the courts more discretion for tenants in arrears because of coronavirus

When these measures are in place, implementing a ‘pre-action protocol’ of steps that landlords must follow before they can bring possession proceedings.

A report out today (22 May 2020) from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee has endorsed these recommendations. It’s calling for the abolition of section 21 evictions and greater discretion for judges to prevent possession action where arrears have built up owing to Covid-19. If implemented, these changes should give the pre-action protocol the necessary ‘teeth’.

Case Study

Julie* works in retail and has been furloughed while the business she works for is closed. While she normally takes home about £1,100 a month through her work and overtime, she is currently only receiving £700 a month (a 36% fall in income), causing huge strain to her finances.

Julie says:

“I started worrying as my wages would only cover my rent. Citizens Advice suggested that I ask my letting agency to lower the rent for a few months.”

“The agency came back to me saying that I should pay what I could afford. Then they said that the rent had to be paid at a rate set by them or I would be evicted.

“They started putting a lot of pressure on me and even said I should cancel payments for everything I did not need to ensure I could pay my rent. I suffer from anxiety so this is really stressful as I have loans, bills, food and my council tax to pay.”

“I’ve been able to get a Debt Management Plan for my loans so it’s now a bit more manageable. But even with this plan in place, I’ve had to apply for Universal Credit as I barely have enough to cover my food, let alone my essential bills”.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“There’s just one month to go before the protections that were put in place to protect renters from eviction during the coronavirus outbreak run out.

“In the midst of this pandemic, it’s not right that renters should face the looming threat of eviction. With millions of people out of work and millions more on reduced incomes, it is a real struggle for many people to pay their rent.

“The government said no one should be forced out of their home because of coronavirus. It’s now time to stand by that promise and protect renters from the prospect of long-term debt or homelessness. ”

While Furlough extension protects households from financial cliff edge, shielded groups and vulnerable workers will need right to access the scheme, says Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice has responded to the Chancellor’s announcement on the extension of the Job Retention Scheme.

Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Extending the furlough scheme and allowing employers to bring back their workers part-time are sensible steps to protect household finances. The Job Retention Scheme was an unprecedented intervention which has protected jobs and put money in people’s pockets. We have made clear that changes to the scheme would be needed to make sure people don’t face a financial cliff edge.

“Sadly, we continue to see cases where people in the shielded group are being denied furlough. People in this group need a right to access this scheme if they cannot work safely. Nobody should be forced to choose between paying the bills or protecting their health.”

New evidence from Citizens Advice suggests some of the most vulnerable workers in society are having their health put at risk by their employer not furloughing them, despite being eligible for the government’s support.

It comes as the Chancellor extends the Job Retention Scheme, which has been used by 800,000 employers to furlough 6.3 million jobs.

The charity’s frontline advisers are already helping workers in the shielded group, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, who have been denied furlough despite instructions to stay at home and avoid face-to-face contact. Many have been left relying on £95.85 per week from Statutory Sick Pay and any additional benefits they might be entitled to.

In the week after applications for the Job Retention Scheme launched on 20 April, Citizens Advice gave one-to-one employment advice to almost 4,200 workers. An in-depth analysis of a randomised sample of a tenth of these cases showed that over 70% of those who are shielding or are potentially at higher risk from coronavirus had not been furloughed. Those at higher risk include people who are pregnant or have conditions such as diabetes.

Employers are currently allowed to furlough people for any reason arising from the coronavirus pandemic, including to protect employees’ health.

Citizens Advice is calling for the most vulnerable workers to have a right to be furloughed if their work would require them to breach public health advice. This should include people in the shielded group or who share a household with someone in the shielded group. These workers should also be able to retain access to the Job Retention Scheme for as long as public health advice requires them not to work.

‘It’s just a catch-22. I’m damned if I work and I’m damned if I don’t go to work’

Food shop key worker Colleen, 55, is in the shielded group as she has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. She has been denied furlough and instead put on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Her husband works as a carer and so can’t return home.

She said:

“I really wish I never gave my work the [shielding] letter because at least I wouldn’t be struggling to get by. But my husband rightly said working would put me at risk. It’s just a catch-22. I’m damned if I work and I’m damned if I don’t go to work.

“Being on SSP means I take home over £200 a month less than if I was working. 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. My friend has dropped me bread and beans to get by.”

Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Ispwich, said:

“The Job Retention Scheme has helped millions of people, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all remedy for getting them back to work.

“We’ve already seen upsetting cases where vulnerable workers have faced the impossible choice of safeguarding their health or ensuring they have enough to live on, because they have been denied furlough.

“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.”

Citizens Advice previously set out options for a transitional package of support after the initial measures end. We are pleased that our calls have been met for a gradual end to the Job Retention Scheme, which could also include ending it for different sectors at different times, or allowing employers to partly furlough employees.

An in-depth analysis of a randomised sample of 10% of the 4,152 cases Citizens Advice saw in the week following the launch of the furlough scheme (20 April), showed:

  • Over 70% of those who are shielding or are at higher risk from coronavirus, such as those who are pregnant or have diabetes, were not furloughed.
  • This rose to around 80% when including workers living with someone who is either shielding or at higher risk from coronavirus.
  • This compares to more than 50% of workers overall who have not been furloughed despite being eligible.

Since lockdown, Citizens Advice Ipswich has given advice to more than 1000 clients and made contact with and shared information with a further 1500 people across the town.

Clients who received in-depth advice totalled over a thousand and of these:

  • 448 got benefits advice
  • 111 got debt advice
  • 147 got employment advice
  • 118 got health and community care based advice
  • 75 got housing advice.

Urgent fixes needed ahead of potential “second wave” of Universal Credit claims and more

Citizens Advice is calling for immediate changes to Universal Credit ahead of a potential second wave of claims when the government’s protection schemes come to a close.

Data released today by the Department of Work and Pensions shows 1.9 million households have made a claim for Universal Credit in the last two months. This equates to just under one in ten working-age households in Great Britain.

While the rate of claims has tapered in recent weeks, the charity warns its frontline advisors are preparing for a potential spike in enquiries this summer. The job retention scheme is currently due to end on 30th June, which could precipitate further job losses.

The redeployment of staff by the Department for Work and Pensions has helped respond to an unprecedented surge in demand on the benefits system and ensured people can access financial support.

However, frontline advisers at Citizens Advice say many people they support with Universal Credit can face hardship as a result of the five-week wait until their first payment, or risk getting into debt by taking out an advance payment.

Responding to today’s figures, Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, says:

“The dizzying number of Universal Credit claims since March is a grim reflection of just how many people have seen their income swept away by coronavirus.

“Decisive action from the government means hundreds of thousands of claims have been processed. The next step is to support people during the five-week wait without putting them at risk of debt problems in the future.

“With a potential second wave of claims looming, now is the time for the government to further strengthen the safety net by turning advance payments into grants.”

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Ipswich says:

“In Ipswich alone, we have helped with over 420 benefits, 143 debt and 62 housing issues since lockdown. We are expecting many more enquiries as the Government now starts to talk about ending lockdown and the return to the workplace. If redundancies are to come, there will be a further wave of hardship for households who have already had to dig deep. The five-week wait for Universal Credit will add to this.”

“£25 a month doesn’t sound like a lot to pay off, but I know it will be a struggle”

Hairdresser Desislava, 33, has lived and worked in London for more than five years. She lost her job in March and applied for Universal Credit. At the time she was a lodger, and with no savings to fall back on and no earnings, she quickly fell into rent arrears and was evicted by her landlord.

Desislava’s local Citizens Advice supported her with an emergency grant while she waited for her application for Universal Credit to be approved. She has since found a new flat and received an advance to tide her over until the first payment, but the experience has left her shaken.

Desislava says: “Losing my job and my home was horrible. I was shaking and crying because I thought I might end up sleeping rough. I tried my best to look for another job, but nobody has one – it’s a global pandemic.

“I applied for Universal Credit but when I saw the amount I’d receive I realised it wouldn’t be enough to live on and cover my bills. While I wait for my first payment I’ve managed to get an advance of £300 which needs to last me until 4th June, but I’m getting stressed and worried about how I’ll survive on that.

“I then need to repay my advance over the next year. £25 a month doesn’t sound like a lot to pay off, but I know it will be a struggle. Particularly as the amount I’m set to get each month won’t even cover my rent and living costs.”

‘One in five to need support from benefits system amid employment crisis’ as Citizens Advice Ipswich helps over 500 cases with benefits and employment since lockdown

New research from Citizens Advice reveals one fifth (20%) of UK adults say they have applied or expect to apply for benefits as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This rises to 68% of people on zero-hours contracts.

In Ipswich, Citizens Advice have supported clients with over 500 queries relating to benefits and employment issues. These issues range from how do I make a claim for benefit, how do the government schemes relate to me, is my employer acting reasonably?

The findings come as government data today shows over 1.5 million households made a Universal Credit claim between 1st March and 12th April. First payments for those who applied for the benefit immediately following the lockdown are due tomorrow.

Figures from Citizens Advice show around six million people in the UK (18% of the total workforce) have already seen their hours cut, been laid off or made redundant.

The charity, which has seen nearly 2.5 million views of its online advice on employment and benefits issues since the lockdown began, says gaps in the jobs protections schemes could be increasing the number forced to apply for the benefit. This includes people who are recently self-employed or at higher risk of coronavirus, such as those who are pregnant or have diabetes.

The swift redeployment of staff by the Department for Work and Pensions has helped respond to an unprecedented surge in demand on the benefits system and ensured people can access financial support.

However, insights from frontline advisers at Citizens Advice show the claims process remains problematic for some groups, such as those who don’t have ID or a bank account or those without an internet connection. Accessibility issues have been exacerbated by the necessary temporary closure of libraries and job centres.

Meanwhile 15% of people anticipate having to borrow money from friends or family to cope with the five-week wait before payment if they do have to apply for Universal Credit.

Citizens Advice is recommending the government make immediate changes to Universal Credit so that those who have lost income as a result of coronavirus can access adequate support quickly without getting into debt.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“Behind today’s figures are families whose world has been turned upside down by coronavirus.

“The Government has worked hard to shore up protections for workers and process soaring claims for Universal Credit. But we know that some people are still slipping through the safety net, often with desperate consequences.

“Plugging the remaining gaps in the employment support schemes could protect more jobs. And for those needing support from the benefits system, turning advance payments into a grant would really ease the burden.”

Nelleke van Helfteren, Deputy Manager, Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“Since the lockdown, Citizens Advice Ipswich alone has dealt with over 500 cases where clients are seeking advice on benefits and how to claim them as well as worries about their work, and this is without our usual face to face service which helps the most vulnerable people in our community, many of whom currently cannot access our service due to lack of digital connectivity.

“Our advisers are receiving calls every day from people whose livelihood has simply disappeared due to this pandemic. Some lost their jobs or were in unstable work when the crisis hit, and others have no income until the self-employed support scheme kicks in.”

“Staff are working flat out to help them with their concerns. Alongside issues with making an online application for Universal Credit, we’re seeing a lot of people struggling simply because they’ve never had to access the benefits system. There’s a huge demand for advice. We are bracing ourselves as we know that beyond lockdown we will be really stretched to help households get back on an even keel: financially, sorting housing issues, accessing benefits and getting back to work. It is not going to be simple or quick. This pandemic will have lasting consequences for the most vulnerable and those households who never thought they were in that category.”

“We urge people not to worry alone – we are here to help and can be contacted by phone on 0300 330 1151 or by email via this website.”

David Sheepshanks CBE DL praises the work of Citizens Advice across Suffolk

Citizens Advice in Suffolk bosses say ‘we’re still here’ as over 1500 people helped since the lock-down commenced.

We may be closed to face-to-face clients, but clients can still get help by phone and email throughout the county.

Since 23 March we have helped over 1500 people across Suffolk who have been affected by the coronavirus crisis and the Government lockdown, whether it be work worries, or on-going issues that are made more difficult due to isolation and lack of access to services.

We are adapting our advice and guidance following on-going announcements by the Government on how they will help people whose livelihoods are affected by the virus.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“Probably the biggest area of calls we are getting at the moment are work-related. to do with the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and employees’ 80% subsidy as well as queries from self-employed people wondering what their entitlements will be.”

“At the moment there’s a lot of misunderstanding. A lot of people think they are going to get the money next week. A lot of what we are doing is explaining what the process and procedure is, who qualifies and how people will be able to apply. People who have never accessed our service before are now contacting us for guidance on the way forward.”

Calls and emails are being redirected to service staff and volunteers away from the offices. In the two weeks since lock down, Citizens Advice in Ipswich, for example, has set up over 50 staff and volunteers to access the necessary technology to be able to deliver advice and support work from home. We are delivering much needed confidential, impartial and independent help and support in our own dining rooms, spare rooms, sitting rooms and in a couple of cases, sheds.”

Since 23 March advisers in Ipswich have helped over 300 clients with over 1000 issues. The service continues to support on-going clients with debt and help with Universal Credit and other benefits, which coronavirus is also affecting, as the Job Centre changes its operations.

Mrs Willshere added:

“We are doing our best to respond to as many enquiries as we can. It’s always more difficult over the telephone than face to face. We are also working with other voluntary agencies as well as our Council and Health colleagues to make sure the most vulnerable people across the County get the support they need.”

“I am incredibly proud of my team who have worked tirelessly to make sure that clients can get through for help.”

David Sheepshanks CBE DL, President of Citizens Advice in Ipswich, added his voice:

“Our teams across Citizens Advice in Suffolk never cease to amaze me. All too rarely do we recognise our Unsung Heroes and even less do we understand who they are or the vital services they fulfil. Despite operating remotely, in this unprecedented state of isolation, lockdown and hardship, I have nothing short of total admiration for the way in which they have helped over 1500 people through various states of financial worry and despair in a mere fortnight. As we rightly applaud and thank the wider NHS teams for their unstinting work, so too can we next time please applaud the other unsung heroes that keep our lives going, none more than our heroic Citizens Advice teams in Suffolk. We salute you!”

To get advice check out the website Citizensadvice.org.uk or telephone Suffolk Adviceline on 0300 330 1151

To contact the Citizens Advice in your area

 

Local Citizens Advice

Telephone

Email

Ipswich

0300 330 1151

https://www.citizensadviceipswich.org.uk/?page_id=876

Felixstowe

 0300 330 9016

 

 

Email: advice@felixstowecab.org.uk

 

Leiston

Phone – 01728 832193 (Leiston office – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10-2) ● Suffolk Advice Line – 0300 330 1151/Advice line – 03444 111 444

 

supervisor@leistoncab.cabnet.org.uk

Mid Suffolk

01449 676060 / 01449 676280

 

https://www.midsuffolkcab.org.uk/contact-us/

 

North East Suffolk

01502 518510  / 01502 717715

 

 

www.northeastsuffolkcab.org.uk/contact/

Or bureau@nescab.cabnet.org.uk

 

Sudbury

01787 321400

 

https://www.sudburycab.org.uk/contact

 

Suffolk West

0300 330 1151

https://suffolkwestcab.org.uk/contact-us/

 

Citizens Advice Universal Credit – Help to Claim Line 

 

Free phone  0800 144 8444

Text  18001 0800 144 8444

 

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/universal-credit/claiming/helptoclaim/

 

Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline

 

 

Telephone   0808 223 1133
Textphone  18001 0808 223 1133

 

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/get-more-help/if-you-need-more-help-about-a-consumer-issue/

 

 

 

Press Release: Wrong side of the tax: Hidden financial hardship of those in council tax arrears revealed

New research from Citizens Advice finds that many people in council tax arrears can’t afford to pay their debts, and have an average of just £7 left at the end of the month after covering their living costs. Some four in ten have no money left at all.

The overwhelming majority – nine in ten of the people who seek help from Citizens Advice with council tax debt – also owe money on other household bills, most commonly water and energy costs.

Yet outdated government regulations are forcing these people into sometimes desperate hardship. They push councils to use the courts to recover council tax debts which can add legal costs and bailiff fees to the debt.

The charity says the rules also mean people become liable for the full annual bill two weeks after a missed payment. This means that missing an average council tax payment of £167 in the first month of the financial year can escalate to a debt of over £2,000 in just nine weeks. This is almost 300 times the monthly amount available to the average person seeking support from Citizens Advice on council tax arrears.

The system is also failing local councils. A 2019 Freedom of Information request revealed that, for every £1 of debt referred to bailiffs by councils, only 27p is ever returned to them.

Since April 2019, Citizens Advice Ipswich have helped clients with over 550 council tax problems, over 40% more than the next biggest debt issue. The amount of Council Tax debt brought to our specialist Debt Advice team totals £200,000 since April 2019.

Marcia, who sought help from Citizens Advice on council tax arrears, had to stop work owing to poor health and began applying for benefits. While she was waiting for a decision, she got behind on rent, council tax and energy bills. She made one payment to the council to cover both old and new arrears, but after a few months was told that she wasn’t paying anything towards the old debt, so a bailiff would now collect.

“I have had the bailiffs round which is scary as I just do not have the money to pay them. They are asking me to repay so much that, if I do pay it, I won’t have enough money to pay towards my gas and electric debt or have food.

“It’s really stressful as I just do not know how I can afford to repay all these debts when I am expected to pay out more than I have coming in.”

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“We are pleased that local councils have signed up to the Citizens Advice Council Tax collection protocol, but that doesn’t change the fact that Government regulations push local authorities to use harsh collection processes. They pile rapidly-escalating debts on people who barely have enough money to get by.

“Many people who need our help with council tax arrears have no more than a few pounds spare every month to repay their debts. An unexpected bill for thousands of pounds, accompanied by legal threats and bailiff action, is terrifying for the person concerned and ineffective for the council trying to recover the debt.

”To protect people from further harm, the government must change the rules to give councils the flexibility to collect council tax fairly and compassionately.”

Responding to the report, Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said:

“Councils have a duty to their residents to collect taxes so important services, like caring for older and disabled people, protecting children, fixing roads and collecting bins are not affected. They strive to recover unpaid tax as sympathetically as possible and to provide support to households at risk of financial exclusion or hardship.

“As the Citizens Advice’s report makes clear, this needs to be supported by better guidance and funding. Councils would be in favour of it being made easier for them to recover money without having to use bailiffs, and would support the removal of the requirement for the entire annual sum to become payable if an instalment is missed.

“Bailiffs should only ever be used as a last resort by councils. Before it gets to that stage, people will have been encouraged to apply for financial support by their council. Anyone having trouble paying their council bills should get in touch with their local authority for financial help and advice as soon as possible.”

Full report – Wrong Side of the Tax: Council tax debt collection needs to change

Rent-to-own cap a win for people paying over the odds, Citizens Advice says

The FCA’s announcement it will cap the cost of rent-to-own goods from 1 April 2019 will help the hundreds of thousands of people who use the high-interest agreements, Citizens Advice says.

The charity helps approximately 5,000 people a year with rent-to-own issues. It has also welcomed the decision by the regulator to place restrictions on other charges, including late payment fees.

Last year, research from Citizens Advice found that people who were at the time signed up to a rent-to-own agreement could save £62 million over the payment period on 245,000 products if a cap was enforced.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“This cap, which we’ve campaigned for, is a win for those struggling with the runaway costs of rent-to-own agreements. We’re delighted it will now be introduced.
“The FCA has recognised the massive harm caused by the crippling interest rates on rent-to-own deals. This cap will stop people from paying over the odds compared to similar products on the high street and falling into further debt when costs spiral out of control.
“Our evidence has repeatedly shown well-designed caps can reduce the harm high-cost credit can cause. Where these credit products cause more harm than good, for example doorstep loans, the FCA should move to introduce similar protections.”