Category Archives: press release

Citizens Advice Ipswich gets Training Facilities Makeover thanks to The Rotary Club of Ipswich Wolsey

The Rotary Club of Ipswich Wolsey have agreed to sponsor a much-needed makeover of the Training Room at Citizens Advice Ipswich. The Club have paid for computers and presentation equipment for the room plus new chairs and desks. This means that volunteers can access the training materials they need in a purpose-designed space to make sure they are equipped with the knowledge and access to tools needed to provide the quality chartermarked advice given to clients, whether by phone, email or face to face.

Bob Boxall-Hunt, Chair of Trustees said:

‘Citizens Advice Ipswich are immensely grateful for this sponsorship to update our facilities for our volunteers. We currently run one induction course per month plus ongoing training and individual coaching sessions for trainee advisers. The new equipment being funded by the Rotary Club means that our core funding can be used to support other essential services for the smooth running of the service.’

Our service relies heavily on the people who generously give their time to volunteer for us, in the past year, 9,946 hours of time was donated by our team. They work tirelessly in such a professional manner to support the community and create a wonderful working environment for everyone. I can’t thank Team Ipswich enough and now I would like to add my thanks to Rotary Club of Ipswich Wolsey for this generous gift.’

Hours volunteered in 2018-19 ~ 9,9465
Client contacts ~ 10,768
Issues dealt with ~ 18,923

Press Release – Citizens Advice Ipswich on hand to advise holiday makers if there are issues with flights

As holidaymakers in the Ipswich area prepare for the summer, Citizens Advice Ipswich is on hand in the event of flight issues

Traditionally over July and August, Citizens Advice Ipswich sees a surge in people who have issues with flight delays, cancellations, and delayed and lost luggage.

With many now packing up to go on their summer holidays, Citizens Advice Ipswich is offering travellers top tips to help their holidays run more smoothly.

Delays

If you’re travelling either to or from an EU airport or with an EU airline, under EU rules you might be entitled to compensation if you’re delayed. You can check to see if your flight is covered by EU rules on the Civil Aviation Authority’s website.

Citizens Advice top tips:

  • Airlines should provide you with assistance depending on how long your flight is delayed, where you were flying to, and how long the journey is.
  • It’s best to contact the airline or the Civil Aviation Authority right away to see what you’re entitled to.
  • Unless the delay was due to exceptional circumstances, you could be entitled to up to €600 in compensation depending on the length of the flight and delay.

Cancellations

Fortunately, if your flight gets cancelled you have the legal right to either a full refund paid within seven days, a replacement flight to get you to your destination, from another airline if necessary, or an alternative flight at a convenient time.

Citizens Advice top tips:

  • Depending on the length of the delay and the distance of the flight, the airline may have to help you with food and drink and access to phone calls and emails. It may also have to provide accommodation if you’re delayed overnight. You can check what your eligibility is on the Citizens Advice website. – in all cases
  • If you choose to get an alternative flight, you may be entitled to compensation in the event of a cancellation if either the replacement flight delays your arrival by more than two hours, or your flight was cancelled less than two weeks beforehand.

Strikes

Industrial action can wreak havoc on your holiday plans, so it’s important to know what your rights are. In the event that staff from the airline you’re travelling with are on strike and you’re either delayed or your flight has been cancelled as a result, your rights are the same as with other cancellations or delays.

Airline employee strikes are not deemed to be extraordinary circumstances, which means that depending on the length of your wait you may be entitled to compensation. The Citizens Advice website can help you calculate how much, if any, you’re likely to be owed.

Luggage

If your luggage is delayed, lost or damaged and the airline is at fault, you have the legal right to claim compensation from the airline.

Citizens Advice top tips:

  • Act quickly and check deadlines. You may have to claim within seven days of your flight.
  • You can claim money from the airline that would cover the bare essentials you need while you’re away, like toiletries, or for part of the cost of replacing or repairing your goods.
  • If you have travel insurance or home contents insurance that covers luggage, you might be better off making an insurance claim instead. You may get more money and find it easier to claim this way, depending on your excess.

Airline goes under

In the unfortunate case that your airline goes out of business you may be able to get some money back. But the method you booked by – direct or third party, credit card or debit card, or booking as part of a package holiday – can all affect your compensation, and your travel insurance.

Citizens Advice top tips:

  • If your flight is ATOL protected it means that you are guaranteed a refund if a company collapses. If you’ve booked flights through a travel agent the ATOL scheme should apply.
  • If your flights aren’t ATOL protected you could try claiming against your credit card company under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. To be eligible, you need to have paid more than £100 for the flight, and to have paid some of this amount with your credit card. For more information see the Citizens Advice website.
  • Airline insolvency can sometimes be included on travel insurance policies, so it’s worth contacting your provider to check to see if your policy covers ‘scheduled airline failure’.

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

“Flight problems can be very frustrating, especially at this time of year. As well as being inconvenient, issues like delays, cancellations, and lost luggage can be costly.”

“Knowing your rights, booking ATOL-protected flights, and taking out comprehensive travel insurance will protect your holiday plans before you fly. We hope that with these top tips, people will enjoy a stress-free journey, from Ipswich to wherever they’re travelling to.”

You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on
03454 04 05 06.

Press release: Suffolk Law Centre and Citizens Advice Ipswich launch an exciting new partnership: Improving Access to Health Justice in Suffolk

Press release: Suffolk Law Centre and Citizens Advice Ipswich

21/06/2019

Improving Access to Health Justice in Suffolk: an exciting new partnership between legal advice and health care providers is launching on 28 June at an event at Ashtons Solicitors at 1.00pm.

  • According to research undertaken by Citizen’s Advice, 19% of GP time is spent on non-clinical problems, costing the NHS almost £400 million a year.
  • Patients bringing their worries about employment, housing, access to welfare benefits and relationship issues have a serious impact on health & wellbeing but are reducing time available to focus on medical issues in GP appointments.
  • When these problems stay unresolved they have further impact on peoples’ mental health which increases demand for mental health services.

Suffolk Health Justice Partnership (SHJP) is proud to launch its first report on the role of legal advice in improving health and wellbeing in Suffolk: ‘Improving Access to Health Justice in Suffolk’.

The SHJP was set up by Suffolk Law Centre and Citizens Advice Ipswich and aims to brings together professionals from the legal, advice and health sectors.

With funding from The Legal Education Foundation (TLEF), SHJP commissioned research to explore the impact of social prescribing in healthcare settings in Suffolk. Social prescribing is a model being trialled across GP surgeries around the country which enables GPs to directly refer patients to a range of services or activities which may improve their health and wellbeing. The model can be particularly effective for those experiencing long-term mental health problems and vulnerable groups. Research by Citizens Advice nationally has found that 8 out of 10 GPs felt they didn’t have enough time to focus on clinical care because of the additional issues that many patients were bringing to appointments, such as needing help with debt or benefits.

The SHJP recognise the benefits that social prescribing can bring for patients and health services but are concerned that the most common link worker model does not provide more specialist advice that many vulnerable people need. Steve Allman, an independent consultant and researcher with an extensive background in the health and social care sector was commissioned to carry out this research.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Ipswich said,

“This report is an important part of the jigsaw that is being built to improve access to health justice and appropriate advice in appropriate settings across the county. By working together, I know that the advice, legal and health sectors can transform the lives of people living in Suffolk.”

Audrey Ludwig, Director of Suffolk Law Centre said,

“We are pleased to collaborate with Citizens Advice to embed social welfare law into health settings. This frees up medical practitioner’s time because evidence shows early advice brings improvement in health and well-being. We now need to work to make the scheme countywide and sustainable and also to recognise the need for specialist legal advice and casework.”

citizens advice ipswich logo

Suffolk Law Centre logo

Citizens Advice brings cheer to Suffolk this Christmas

Citizens Advice charities have been supporting people in Suffolk this Christmas by helping to solve problems that are a burden to households. The charities helped 22,000 people last year, and say that Christmas can be a difficult time of year for vulnerable people.

This month, Citizens Advice helped a father who approached his local office when his primary school age daughter was placed into his care by social services.

The child’s mother was experiencing a mental health crisis and the child was removed from her care after involvement from the police.

The child was taken to her father immediately, without any of her belongings and with only the clothes she was wearing.

The local Citizens Advice arranged a food parcel for the family and applied for a grant from the local Lions Club so that the father could buy her clothes.

An Adviser arranged for the child to receive a Christmas present through a scheme run by the local Salvation Army and passed her thank you card to the Lions Club.

The local Citizens Advice is helping the father to claim the child benefit and associated benefits that he is entitled to so that he can provide care for his daughter.

Citizens Advice are also helping vulnerable people in Suffolk to heat their homes this winter, in partnership with Suffolk Community Foundation.

Citizens Advice Ipswich administers applications for the Surviving Winter Grant for the whole of Suffolk.

So far, over £20,000 donated by the generous people of Suffolk has been shared in the form of over 170 grants to older people across the County and that is only the beginning of the project. Surviving Winter partners are aiming to reach a target of £150,000 in donations to be awarded to around 800 households to help keep them warm over the winter.

As well as providing this much-needed extra funding, Citizens Advice across the county gives additional help with energy costs, benefits applications and money advice. This helps to keep people well in their homes.

In this year alone, Citizens Advice in Suffolk has dealt with £9m of debt, helping to stabilise the financial situation for families in 2018.

Helping to manage debt leads to people getting some control back in their lives, and allows them to budget for the everyday essentials as well as occasional extras like Christmas presents.

Nicky Willshere of Citizens Advice Ipswich said,

“People turn to us when their problems are difficult to solve, and this is even more important at Christmas, which can be a difficult time for many.”

“Volunteers are the backbone of our service. Last year, 425 volunteers gave their time at their local Citizens Advice in Suffolk to help people in need. Thanks to them, we helped 22,000 people.”

“We are grateful to all of those who enable us to help those in need, including volunteers, funders and charity partners.”

“We receive numerous thank you cards and small gifts from grateful clients at this time of year. Though that is not why we do it, it is great that our volunteers and staff are recognised for their hard work throughout the year.”

“One client put it better than I can – thank you to everyone for helping my family get through this difficult time – I would not have known where to go if you weren’t here. Until now I didn’t know how hard it could be.”

Buyers need to beware as thousands of customers report being ripped off on online marketplaces, says Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Ipswich.

More than 13,000 problems with purchases in England and Wales on online marketplaces were reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service last year.

Online marketplaces – websites where traders and private individuals list and sell products – are becoming increasingly popular for people trying to find the best deal.

As customers turn to online marketplaces in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, Citizens Advice Ipswich is warning residents in Ipswich to be aware of the dangers.

This year’s National Consumer Week, which runs from 26 November to 2 December, focuses on customer rights when buying from an online marketplace. Citizens Advice Ipswich says people don’t always know they have fewer rights when they buy from a private seller, compared to if they buy from a business.

If you buy from a private seller the principle of “buyer beware” applies. This means while the seller can’t misdescribe the item, they can omit information. For example, if a laptop is described as being a silver laptop in “excellent working condition” but it’s faulty, you could ask for your money back. But if “excellent working condition” is missing from the description, you won’t be able to.

As part of National Consumer Week, Citizens Advice Ipswich suggests people check all the product information carefully before buying something on an online marketplace. They also recommend that shoppers take extra care, like reading previous reviews and saving screenshots of their purchases.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer said:

“Far too many people are being ripped off on online marketplaces. As part of National Consumer Week we want to make sure customers know what to look out for when making a purchase and their rights if something goes wrong.”

“With millions of people trying to find a bargain online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, buyers need to beware when purchasing off online marketplaces.”

“To reduce the risk of being left out-of-pocket it’s a good idea to check the product information on these sites carefully before they make a purchase.”

Here are Citizens Advice’s tips for using online marketplaces:

Check the product details

This should include: photos; a description; cost of the item; delivery charges; contact details for the seller; and any cancellation rights.

It should be clear if it’s being sold by a trader or private seller – this is important as your rights are different.

It is wise to read previous reviews as these can often flag potential issues, but watch out for fake reviews. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Take screenshots of the item you want to buy

This will come in handy if the item you receive is different to what you saw on the website.

Use a payment method that protects you

You’ll have a better chance of getting your money back if there’s a problem by using a card or Paypal, particularly if it’s an overseas seller. Avoid paying by bank transfer.

Go back to the seller if there’s a problem

Explain what’s happened, how you’d like them to fix it and give a deadline for them to respond. If they don’t sort it out, see if there’s an alternative dispute resolution service that can help. Report them and the online marketplace to Trading Standards if you think the issue is unfair.

Getting your money back from a private seller

The product description needs to be accurate, but if information is missing you won’t be able to ask for your money back.

If the item doesn’t match the photos on the website, you may also have grounds to ask for your money back.

We need a regulator to rein in rule-flouting bailiffs, Citizens Advice Ipswich says

Citizens Advice Ipswich is throwing its weight behind a campaign for an independent regulator to crack down on badly behaved bailiffs.

New figures from Citizens Advice England and Wales and debt charity StepChange suggest that 850,000 of the 2.2 million people contacted by a bailiff in the last two years were victims of bailiffs breaking the rules.

Of the people affected by, or who witnessed a bailiff breaking the rules, 1 in 5 (18%) had seen unsympathetic treatment of someone with an illness or disability, 1 in 6 (17%) had a break-in threatened, and 1 in 10 had tools or a vehicle removed which were needed for their work.

In the last two years Citizens Advice Ipswich helped 196 people dealing with bailiffs for debts such as council tax arrears, parking fines, and magistrates’ court fines. And the frequency of client contacts concerning bailiffs is on the rise.

In one example, Citizens Advice Ipswich helped a client who was suffering with depression and anxiety after giving birth and was in arrears with her council tax. The bailiff refused to consider a payment arrangement and told her that if she didn’t pay up she would be arrested and her children taken into care. This caused the client’s mental health to deteriorate further.

Rule-breaking bailiffs often cause people more stress, anxiety and financial hardship, according to the research published on Tuesday. When someone had a negative experience with a bailiff:

  • 7 in 10 reported increased stress and anxiety
  • 1 in 2 experienced knock-on effects on their finances, with 1 in 6 people (17%) taking out additional credit to pay the bailiffs

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

“The government must step in and regulate the industry to prevent people suffering at the hands of bailiffs who flout the rules. It beggars belief an industry that can cause so much damage is not properly policed by a regulator. We see first-hand the widespread harm the actions of bailiffs and the companies they work for inflict on people and their families. It must stop. The evidence is clear, the Ministry of Justice has no option but to establish an independent bailiff regulator.”

Press Release – Citizens Advice services threatened by proposed withdrawal of County Council funding

Suffolk County Council has told Citizens Advice charities operating across the county that it is proposing to end its funding support.

The full council will vote in February on whether to withdraw the funding, which was worth £375,000 to Citizens Advice across Suffolk during 2017/18. Almost 22,000 people sought help from Citizens Advice in the county last year.

John Ashton, Chair of Sudbury and District Citizens Advice, speaking on behalf of the Citizens Advice network in Suffolk, said:

“While future funding is never guaranteed, we are dismayed that Suffolk County Council is proposing to withdraw all funding from Citizens Advice in the county.”

“We are seriously concerned about the impact of this proposal on our communities, especially on the most vulnerable. It would be very difficult to find alternative sources of funding in time to ensure continuity of service.”

“The Suffolk Trustees and Chief Officers will now consider all options for managing a potentially reduced budget, should the decision remain unchanged. We will work hard to deliver the best outcome that we can for the people of Suffolk.”

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.”

“National research shows that for every £1 invested in Citizens Advice we generate at least £1.88 in savings to government and public services and £11.43 in wider economic and social benefits.”

“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.”

This press release has been published on behalf of all Managers of Local Citizens Advice across Suffolk.

Disabled people in Suffolk can be more than £300 a month worse off under Universal Credit

Disabled people in Suffolk can be more than £300 a month worse off under Universal Credit, Citizens Advice in Suffolk reveals

Citizens Advice across the county have said that some disabled people in the area could be around £300 a month worse off under Universal Credit compared to the previous system.

The Citizens Advice across Suffolk has helped 3,500 people with Universal Credit since it was rolled out.

Of these, 1,160 were disabled or had a long-term health condition.

A report published by national Citizens Advice on Friday – Universal Credit for Single Disabled People – revealed a significant drop in financial support for some single disabled people in a range of circumstances.

This includes losses that can be more than £300 a month for working disabled people because of flaws in the design of the new benefit. The Work Allowance is meant to improve work incentives for disabled people in Universal Credit.

However, in practice, the Work Allowance can only be accessed through the Work Capability Assessment, which gives benefits awards to people unable to work, rather than for disabled people who can work.

This creates the situation where a worker must be assessed as not fit for work to receive targeted in-work support.

Citizens Advice across Suffolk are calling on the government to make changes to the design and the amount of financial support in Universal Credit to make sure disabled people aren’t penalised when they claim the new benefit.

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

“We see the toll that Universal Credit can have on disabled people across Suffolk.”

“They can be hundreds of pounds worse off than under the previous system – even when they do get the support meant for them.”

“This money is desperately needed to cover key costs including essential bills and stop people falling into serious financial difficulty.”

“The government must fix Universal Credit and increase the financial support disabled people can receive under the new benefit.”

Press Release: £19 billion owed in everyday bills, as Citizens Advice reveals it helps 1 person every 3 minutes with bailiff issues

Citizens Advice is calling for better regulation of unaccountable bailiff firms as it reveals households have fallen behind on their essential bills, such as council tax and utilities, by an estimated £18.9 billion.

Last year, the charity helped one person every 3 minutes with bailiff issues. In 2014, the government introduced reforms which were meant to protect people from unfair practices. Yet since then, Citizens Advice has seen a 24% rise in bailiff problems.

In July, MPs on the Treasury Select Committee said government and local authorities were “worst in class” for debt collection, and that bailiff use can cause additional problems.

Falling behind on household bills typically has more severe consequences than missing consumer credit repayments, like overdrafts and personal loans. People can face having their essential services cut off, can be kicked out of their home due to rent arrears or even face prison if they get behind on their council tax. Citizens Advice is concerned that aggressive tactics are also having serious knock-on effects, leading to further debt and mental health problems.

In one example, Citizens Advice helped a retired couple who – for the first time in their lives – had fallen behind on some of their essential bills and owed £700 in council tax. The bailiffs who came to collect the debt were aggressive and demanded the full amount immediately, saying they were going to call the police if the couple couldn’t pay. The couple are now afraid to open their front door.

Citizens Advice says it has seen a significant increase in the proportion of debt issues it helps people with that are related to household bill debts since 2011. Since then, problems with these kinds of debts have overtaken the number of consumer credit issues that people are seeking the charity’s help with.

Its figures show the people it helps with household bill problems tend to be in a more precarious financial position than those with consumer credit debts. The charity says people with household bill debt were 37% more likely to be out of full-time employment and almost 1 in 3 people (34%) had a mental health problem.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

One person every 3 minutes come to us for help with bailiff issues. Families are living in fear of a visit from the bailiffs, and small missed bills can skyrocket through excessive enforcement fees.

Our evidence shows aggressive tactics by bailiffs cause huge distress and can even push people further into debt. Families are going without essentials like food or electricity to meet their payments.

The Ministry of Justice has already announced a call for evidence into aggressive collection practices by bailiffs. They must use this to take strong action and introduce an independent bailiff regulator to fix this broken system.

Figures from the charity show:

  • UK households owe £18.9 billion to essential service providers and government in arrears. This includes tax credit overpayments of almost £7.5 billion, £2.84 billion owed to local authorities in council tax arrears and £2.20 billion owed to water companies.
  • Household debt has now overtaken consumer credit as the key money problem people bring to Citizens Advice.
  • Last year we helped people with 690,000 household bill debt problems, compared to 350,000 consumer credit issues.

Citizens Advice is calling for:

  • The government to commit to measuring the levels of household debt. The government should collect and report annually on the level of debt to government and to essential service providers – in a similar way to the Bank of England’s monthly statistics on consumer and mortgage lending.
  • The bailiff industry to be independently regulated. The Ministry of Justice should use its announced ‘crackdown on rogue bailiffs’ and 3 year review of the 2014 Taking Control Regulations, to bring bailiffs and bailiff companies under an independent regulator.

People who are concerned about their finances can contact Citizens Advice for budgeting and debt advice.

Why do scams work? Citizens Advice Ipswich explains some of the reasons

In the ongoing battle against SCAMS, Citizens Advice Ipswich is out and about in the town during June explaining to people why scams work and what we all need to look out for.

Visits to Ipswich Building Society, Whitton Fun Dog Day (Saturday 9 June), leaflets in our weekly Outreach surgeries and spots on BBC Radio Suffolk and Ipswich Community Radio are all part of our strategy to get the message out to as many people in the town as possible.

Nelleke van Helfteren, Deputy Manager at Citizens Advice Ipswich says: “unfortunately, there is a scam out there for everyone, whoever you are. The important thing is for us all to start to understand better what it is that scammers rely on to design an effective scam. We need to be more clued up on the tricks in a scammer’s playbook.”

Scammers use a range of tools to target the public:
They create a feeling of obligation – often contacting victims under the guise of being a figure of authority such as a doctor or a lawyer. They may also pretend to share a mutual friend or representing a well-known brand or company – “Dave who used to work with you gave me your number and suggested I give you a call….”

Scammers create a sense of urgency as they know we make worse decisions under stress and time pressure. Scammers can convince us that we need to act quickly to encourage victims to make decisions without thinking rationally, without consulting others and controlling our impulses.

Scammers appeal to our emotions – scams are designed to get an emotional response – this can be positive (eg excitement at winning the lottery or a prize) or negative (eg fear and anxiety about ‘fraudulent activity’ on your bank account.

Fraudsters make an art of understanding their target: they have different scams depending on the audience. They know that young people tend to feel immune from scams as they are computer savvy and ‘scams only work on old people’. This is not true. Every 15 seconds someone in the UK gets scammed. People who are well established in life can also feel that they are relatively confident in their ability to identify and protect themselves from scams due to their life experience. This group of people are likely to lose the highest amounts of money – average losses reported last year were around £20,000.

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