Category Archives: news

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.

More than two in three people (69%) who shop online have had parcels lost, damaged or turn up late in the last year, according to new research by Citizens Advice

As summer sales season gets underway, Citizens Advice says problems with late deliveries affect online shoppers the most – including those who paid for a premium service guaranteeing next day or a named day delivery.

Other common issues include parcels being left in unsecure locations, such as bins, and unnecessary failed deliveries – where people waited at home for a parcel, only to receive a note saying they’d missed it.

A survey of over 2,000 online shoppers carried out in December 2016 reveals:

  • 38% of people have had a parcel arrive late – including more than one in ten (16%) who paid for premium delivery service.
  • More than 1 in 10 have received damaged items.
  • More than 1 in 5 had a parcel go missing
  • 28% had a parcel left in an unsecure location
  • 28% were at home but had a note through the door saying the parcel couldn’t be delivered.

A new report ‘Parcel delivery: Delivery services in the online shopping market’ published by the charity today, highlights the problems people face resolving their delivery complaints.

More than half of people (54%) don’t take any action if their parcel is late – such as complaining or asking for a refund. Meanwhile a third of consumers who receive a damaged parcel don’t take action. For those that did try to complain, over 40% ran into problems – such as difficulty contacting the retailer or delivery company on the phone.
The research also found that half of consumers were unsure about who was responsible for the delivery of their parcel in the first place.

Citizens Advice’s consumer service helps people with around 2,600 parcel delivery issues each year. In 2016, over 23,000 people also visited the charity’s website seeking help for parcel problems.
A common issue reported to Citizens Advice was parcels that had been left in rubbish bins.

One woman who came to Citizens Advice for help was on holiday when her parcel was left in a bin. When she returned the bin had been emptied and the parcel gone. When she tried to complain to the retailer she was told it was not their responsibility.
Another man ordered a car part online which was left in a bin that was emptied by the time he got home from work. He complained to the sender but they said it wasn’t their fault.

Citizens Advice suggests a number of measures to make it easier for consumers to sort out their delivery problems, including:

  • Asking retailers and parcel firms to explain more clearly on their websites what customers’ delivery rights are.
  • Set up a quality mark scheme for parcel delivery firms that retailers could use to judge which offer the best service to their customers.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

“Online shopping should be quick and convenient – but problems with delivery create unwanted hassle.

“Waiting at home for an item that doesn’t arrive is frustrating and time consuming – but our research shows many people aren’t taking action to resolve delivery issues, and others are running into problems if they do.”

“Retailers are responsible for getting the parcel to the customer – and making this clearer to customers at the checkout could help them sort out problems quicker if deliveries go astray.”

How to solve online delivery problems

Your parcel doesn’t arrive when you expected it to

Standard delivery: If you’re worried an item hasn’t arrived by the date agreed on your order, contact the retailer to find out where it is.The retailer is responsible for getting orders delivered to you, not the parcel company.If you didn’t agree a specific delivery date, it should arrive within 30 days of when you ordered it. You can cancel the order and get a full refund if it doesn’t arrive after 30 days.

Premium delivery: You can claim a refund for some of the cost of delivery. Legally, retailers only need to refund the cost of the cheapest delivery option – so if you paid for a premium ‘next day’ or ‘named day’ service, you may not get all your money back.

Your parcel is damaged
It is the retailer’s responsibility to make sure items arrive in good condition. Contact them about the damage and they will either offer to send you a new item or refund you.

Someone was waiting at home for the parcel, but a note said it couldn’t be delivered
Contact the parcel firm to arrange a redelivery, or alternatively if you don’t want it any more you can cancel the order if it’s been less than 14 days since you bought it and get a refund. Although legally you’re not entitled to compensation in this situation it’s worth complaining to the delivery firm and retailer – they will value your feedback and may offer you a goodwill gesture.

Your parcel was left in an unsecure location
If you get a note saying your parcel has been left in a certain location but it isn’t there, the retailer should replace it or give you your money back. If you receive the item but aren’t happy with where it was left, complain to both the retailer and delivery firm. Although not legally obliged, they may offer you some sort of compensation as a goodwill gesture.

Citizens Advice Ipswich exposes 10 things employers say to mislead people about their rights

Asking people to become self-employed if they want to keep their jobs or telling agency staff they don’t have a legal right to sick pay are just some of the things employers say to find ways around people’s rights at work, Citizens Advice Ipswich can reveal.

The national charity has identified 10 common things that some employers say to try and mislead people about their rights.

In the 12 months to April, Citizens Advice Ipswich helped 570 people with a problem at work.

People were most likely to ask Citizens Advice Ipswich for advice on:

– Pay and entitlements, such as sick pay
– Dismissal
– Contract terms and conditions, such as whether they were workers or self-employed

All employees are entitled to basic rights such as national minimum wage, sick pay, holiday pay and fair treatment during pregnancy.

However, issues such as contract types and unclear employment status can leave workers unsure about what they’re entitled to, and allow unscrupulous employers to find ways of depriving them of pay and protections.

Now Citizens Advice Ipswich is exposing 10 things employers say that attempt to undermine people’s rights and setting the record straight on how they should be treated.

Citizens Advice Ipswich Chief Executive Nicky Willshere said:

“Unscrupulous bosses are using excuses to duck out of giving people the rights they’re entitled to.

“People with complicated working arrangements such as flexible hours, temporary or agency contracts can find it particularly difficult to work out what their rights are, allowing some bad bosses to trick them out of pay and entitlements.

“Anyone who thinks they aren’t being paid properly or are worried about things their boss has said should come to us for advice, so we can help clarify their rights and work out what to do next.”

10 things your boss shouldn’t say

If you hear any of these, get advice:

1. “You work for us, but you’ll need to pay your own national insurance contributions.”

2. “We can’t afford to pay you any more – you’ll have to go self-employed.”

Being asked to pay your own national insurance or to go self employed when nothing has changed are signs of ‘bogus self employment’ – where your boss claims you are self-employed but you’re not.

This saves employers money as they don’t pay national insurance on your wage – or need to pay you minimum wage, holiday pay, sick pay or maternity pay either. Check your employment status – if you think you are an employee, ask to be treated like one. Get advice on how to approach the conversation.

3. “Your disability means you don’t do as much work as others, so we’re not going to pay you minimum wage.”

4. “You were travelling between clients – so we didn’t pay you for those hours.”

Every employee should get national minimum wage, and you should be paid for all the time you spend at work. HMRC can help resolve problems with underpayment – Citizens Advice can guide you on next steps.

5. “You’re pregnant? Great! But we’re worried you won’t cope so we’re cutting your hours.”

6. “You’re having a baby next year? We’ll need to take you off that important project now.”

Your working arrangements during pregnancy should stay the same unless you ask for a change – any changes imposed on you are discrimination. Let your boss know that you want to continue work as normal, and if they insist on changes get advice.

7. “We don’t have to pay you redundancy pay because you’re on a zero hours contract.”

Wrong – some zero hours workers are entitled to redundancy pay. You need to have been working for your employer for two years or more, usually doing at least one shift a week. Citizens Advice can help you work out if you qualify.

8. “We need to close for the next two days for stock taking, so you’ll need to take holiday.”

If your employer needs you to take holiday, they should give you twice as much notice as the length of holiday needed. If you aren’t given proper notice, you should be paid and not asked to use leave. ACAS can liaise with both parties to resolve problems with leave if a discussion with your employer doesn’t work.

9. “You work through an agency, so you don’t get sick pay.”

Agency workers should be paid sick pay by the agency. Check if you qualify for sick pay and work out your next steps.

10. “We took you off the rota, so we don’t owe you sick pay.”

If you’ve already agreed to work the hours and you’ve been absent long enough to qualify, you should get sick pay.

Citizens Advice top tips for tackling problems at work

1. Keep evidence – keep hold of letters, payslips, emails and texts, and note down a record of conversations you’ve had which could be used to support your case.
2. Talk to your boss – problems may arise from honest mistakes or misunderstanding the law. If you don’t feel confident having a conversation one to one, ask a colleague or Union rep to join you.
3. Have a more formal discussion – if the issue isn’t resolved with an informal conversation, the next step is to raise a written grievance which should give you the chance to discuss your issue formally. ACAS has guidance on what to do.
4. Get advice – if you’re still not getting anywhere, speak to Citizens Advice, your Trade Union or to ACAS. Options might include using dispute resolution to liaise with your employer, or going to an employment tribunal.