Concerns over increases in benefits, employment and housing problems

Leading local advice charity, Citizens Advice Exeter, today publishes its advice trend statistics for April 2016. The charity has helped 43% more people with their advice and information when compared to April 2015.

The amount of advice that the charity has been able to provide compared to April last year, was as follows:

Welfare benefits
Overall, the charity has dealt with 43.8% more welfare benefit enquiries. The main increases being:

• 46.4% about employment and support allowance
• 42.2% about housing benefit
• 27.9% about disability benefits (PIP/DLA)
• 25.0% about tax credits

Overall, the charity has dealt with 56.3% more debt enquiries. The main increases being:

• 112.1% about council tax arrears
• 108.5% about bankruptcy and debt relief orders
• 40.7% about water debts
• 3.7% decrease in the amounts owed by clients in debt. This stands at £6,585.64

Overall, the charity has dealt with 33.3% more employment enquiries. The main changes being:

• 116.6% about pay and entitlements
• 60.0% about dispute resolution

Overall, the charity has dealt with 13.6% more housing enquiries. The main changes being:

• 150.0% about actual homelessness
• 42.8% about threatened homelessness

Chief Executive Steve Barriball said: “There is a real worry here that we saw increases in enquiries about welfare benefits, employment and housing every month last year. We are again seeing increases again this year. This highlights the urgent need to address failings in the benefits system, provide more security for those in work, and provide additional assistance to those struggling to get on the property ladder; either as property owners or tenants.”

Steve continued: “It is good to see a drop in the average debt per client. However, as the sample size is small, based on just one month, it is difficult to draw any concrete conclusions or trends at this stage. We will continue to monitor the position over the coming months. It is good news that things continue to look up on the wider economic front. But for many individuals and families the combination of pressure on household budgets, the impact of welfare reform, and rising childcare costs are all features contributing to other increases in client enquiries. Not everyone is confident managing their money so it is really important people are able to access free, impartial help and support to get their finances on track.”

Client case studies – focus on employment enquiries:

1. Following an injury at work a client was encouraged to resign his position and seek self-employment by his employer if they wished to be moved to lighter duties.
2. An employee was given just two-days notice of changes to unsociable hours payments in order that the employer could offset the impact of the National Living Wage.
3. A client was threatened by their employer that if they left they could not join a similar business due to a non-competition clause in the contract of employment
4. A client sought advice about legal protections if they ‘whistle-blow’ on the practices of their employer

Steve finished by saying: “Our commitment is always to provide the advice people need for the problems they face. However, we can only continue to do this if we have the necessary resources and we need to increase public and business donations. Anyone wishing to support our work can donate on-line by going to the Support Us section of our website (”

Alternatively, donations can be made in person at the charity’s offices on Dix’s Field in Exeter.