Category Archives: news

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.”

Connect for Health

Today Sally Oakley from Ipswich Citizens Advice commenced the first GP outreach service at Burlington Road Surgery. This is part of the CCG’s Social Prescribing Project called ‘Connect for Health’. Citizens Advice Ipswich will be placing an Adviser in every GP surgery throughout the Ipswich area during 2019. Appointments will be made via the surgery for the day (s) that an Adviser is present for help and support with the problems they are facing. Citizens Advice will also be providing a Community Connector who will provide extra help to improve people’s lives.

Burlington Road Surgery

More children in poverty coming from working families

Childhood poverty in our region is no longer the curse of the unemployed with more and more working families struggling to make ends meed.

More than two thirds of children living in poverty in our region come from working families.

Charities blame benefit freezes, rising living costs, zero hour contracts and the Universal Credit system.

Here is a link to an About Anglia report on the subject in which we feature:

Child Poverty in East Anglia

Petition against funding cuts to Citizens Advice in Suffolk

Suffolk County Council has told Citizens Advice charities operating across the county that it is proposing to halve and then withdraw its funding support. The full council will vote in February on the proposal. Suffolk County Council funding was worth £375,000 to Citizens Advice across Suffolk during 2017/18.

Citizens Advice is already a cost-effective service. Last year, the work done in Suffolk by our 425 volunteers was officially valued at more than £2.4 million. In 2017/18 they helped people write off £7.8 million in debt. National research shows that for every £1 invested in Citizens Advice in Suffolk we generated at least £3.52 in savings to government and public services and £20.84 in wider economic and social benefits.

What would this mean?

This would lead to a significantly reduced service for people in Suffolk. The number of staff and volunteers available to give advice would have to be drastically reduced. The volunteer advisers provide quality assured advice on a wide range of issues such as debt, disability benefits, housing, employment and relationships.

In a joint statement, the Chief Officers of Citizens Advice in Suffolk said:

“We are local charities and we rely on local support. The funding we receive from Suffolk County Council enables us to make a real difference in the lives of people across the county and we are very grateful for that. Our top priority is always the people who need us. The number of people we see continues to grow and our dedicated team of staff and volunteers is committed to serving them. If agreed, these cuts would be a significant reduction in our budgets and will lead to difficult choices. We will work closely with our partners, staff and volunteers to make the best decisions we can in the circumstances.”

What can you do?

We are asking everyone in Suffolk to sign and share a petition against the cuts. Go to https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/citizensadviceinsuffolk to sign the petition.

Please share the petition with friends and family, by email or social media.

As well as signing and sharing the petition you can help by:

3Ds Universal Credit leaflet

Following our recent presentation at Citizens Advice National Conference we include this news item to help those who attended to find a pdf copy of our 3Ds leaflet for Universal Credit.

3Ds Universal Credit Leaflet

The guide is the result of the Ipswich & Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) and Citizens Advice Ipswich coming together to form the ‘3Ds’ Project.

The ‘3Ds’ in question are: Disability + Disadvantage = Duty.

This partnership was formed after ISCRE had identified problems being experienced by disabled or long term sick JSA claimants in looking for work because of their disability.

Because of this, many were being ‘sanctioned’ (losing benefits) for not complying with their job seekers agreements. Nationwide, the number of claimants sanctioned had increased by 64% with one in four of these identified as being disabled or long term sick. A total of 11% of JSA claimants in the East of England had been sanctioned.

Under the Equality Act 2010, the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) has a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled or long term sick claimants to overcome difficulties that are not faced by people who are not disabled.

The leaflet is aimed at both DWP staff and the jobseekers and their friends and family. It defines the meaning of disabled under the Equality Act, explains the legal duty of the DWP and includes a tear-off form for claimants to take to the job centre explaining their disability and any reasonable adjustments that should be made to their job seekers agreement.

A copy of the leaflet can also be found on our campaigns page.

Watch out for legal and financial scams, warns Citizens Advice Ipswich

People need to be on their guard against financial and legal scams. Ipswich Citizens Advice is showing people how to spot scams as it launches Scams Awareness Month.

A total of 1200 financial and legal scams were reported to the consumer service in the year ending April 2018 – a 6% increase on the year before.

The median loss for these scams was £330.

A range of investments scams were reported to the consumer service, including:

Cryptocurrency – Fake websites claim to offer cryptocurrency investments, like Bitcoin. Often, scammers will pretend that household names have endorsed the company to give it some legitimacy.

Binary options – Scammers pose as stockbrokers and get you to place bets on whether phoney shares will rise or fall within a certain date. They’ll promise big returns. You should check if they are on the FCA Register and not on the warning list of firms to avoid

Holiday timeshares – Scammers promise to buy your membership off you for an advanced fee.

Bogus solicitors – A scammer will intercept emails from a legitimate solicitor and pose as them. Scammers often strike when a property is being exchanged on and get the funds diverted to their bank account instead. Check if they are on the Solicitors Regulation Authority to see if they are genuine.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:
“Scammers can make for convincing white collar professionals, especially online, and are skilled at persuading people they are legitimate.

“The stakes are high with financial and legal scams as you can end up losing your savings or pension fund, which can put your long-term financial stability at risk.

“When you get approached about any investment, don’t rush into anything without making sure it’s legitimate first, particularly when you’re contacted out of the blue.”

To help stop more people being fleeced by these types of scams, Citizens Advice Ipswich is sharing tips on how to spot them:

  • Be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise
  • Don’t be rushed – you never need to make a decision straight away
  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
  • Never send money to someone you have never met
  • Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you
  • Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance
  • Genuine computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer
  • Suspect a scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call
  • Persuasive sales patter? Just say: “No Thank You”
  • Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams

Citizens Advice Ipswich will be at a number of events through the month of June to help people understand what sorts of things to be aware of.

We will be at Whitton Dog Show – a Fun Dog Show, Castle Hill Park, Congreve Road, Ipswich, on Saturday 9 June. The show starts at 10:30 am and we will be there for the morning and early afternoon. Anyone who comes along can bring their dog and enter into the event as well.

We are also taking part in a session with Ipswich Building Society on Tuesday 5 June.

Citizens Advice Ipswich thanks volunteers for making a huge difference to people’s lives

Citizens Advice Ipswich is celebrating its volunteers who dedicate their time to solving people’s problems and making a difference to their lives.

Volunteers Week, which runs from 1-7 June, is themed ‘volunteering for all’ and the charity wants to highlight the work of its team, which helps people in the community struggling with debt, housing, benefit and employment issues among other issues.

The 60 volunteers at Citizens Advice Ipswich give up over 11,000 hours each year which adds up to around 230 per week. Last year we helped almost 5000 people with over 18000 issues.

The charity’s volunteers have played a crucial role ensuring people in Ipswich get the advice and support they need to get on with their lives.

Citizens Advice offers a wide range of voluntary roles including fundraising, advisers, administrators and trustees.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer , says “Our volunteers make a huge difference to people’s lives.

“They give up their free time to help people in their community, who may be going through problems, to get back on their feet.

“Volunteering is for everybody and it brings its own rewards. It’s a great way to meet people and learn skills.

“If you’d like to help people in your area and can spare a few hours, we’d love to hear from you.”

In our new group of volunteers who started with us this month, we have all ages and stages of life – two recent graduates, a student looking for volunteering experience during the vacations, newly retired folk and some others looking to learn more about Ipswich as a community.

Funmi, one of our recent volunteers found out about Citizens Advice through a leaflet at a Children’s Centre in the town. She started volunteering in October 2015 as she wanted to do something productive with her time while her children were in nursery. Funmi started as a volunteer administrator and went on to train as an assessor. She has since moved into paid employment in her professional field at Ipswich Hospital.

Funmi said: “You get more than you bargained for when you volunteer with Ipswich CAB! I have helped all sort of clients. No two cases are the same and you never get bored.”

Nicky Willshere commented: “though we were sorry to see such an enthusiastic member of our volunteer team move on, we also see this as part of our role as an organisation at the heart of Ipswich – skilling people up to get back into working in the local area.”

Nationally, 23,000 Citizens Advice volunteers help provide support in 2,900 locations across England and Wales – helping 2.7 million people every year.

Thanks to the contribution volunteers play in local Citizens Advice, 2 out of every 3 clients have their problem solved and 4 out of 5 say the advice received improved their lives.

If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice Ipswich contact us via this website or call us on 01473 219770.