Tuesday 3 May 2016
Leading local advice charity, Citizens Advice Exeter, today publishes its annual advice trend statistics for the year-ending 31st March 2016. See below for full details of the worrying enquiry types.
The charity has recruited 29 more volunteers over the last 12 months and this is reflected in the annual results, with the charity helping 36% more people with their advice and information needs since April 2015.
Chief Executive Steve Barriball said: “I congratulate and thank our volunteers for the work they do each and every day. With the introduction of Universal Credit, and other changes, there is more that we can do, and we will. I would also like to pay tribute to the work that the staff team have done in terms of recruiting and training more volunteers so that we can help more people.”
Steve continued: “Last year, our volunteers provided 35,000 hours of their time to support local people in need, worth some £550,000 in financial terms. Also, the Citizens Advice service was named the 2015 Charity of the Year in the Charity Times Awards. This is recognition of the role that our volunteers play each and every day in helping our clients to change their lives for the better. That is an incredible and invaluable thing, and it was this team effort that the Charity Times Award recognised.”
Steve added: “In terms of the advice trends, there is a real worry here that for the whole of last year enquiries about welfare benefits, employment and housing have consistently been well ahead of where they were last 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 finished: “We have seen a small increase in the number of debt enquires. However, for people in debt the situation is more serious with debt to income levels increasing and also increases in more urgent or priority debt levels. Priority debts include things such as mortgage, rent and council tax arrears. On average, clients in debt now owe some £12,396.02, an increase of £669.38 on the previous year.”
Anyone wishing to support the work of the charity can donate on-line by going to the Support Us section of their website (www.citizensadviceexeter.org.uk). Alternatively, donations can be made in person at the Bureau offices on Dix’s Field in Exeter.
The amount of advice that the charity has been able to provide compared to last year, was as follows:
Overall, the charity dealt with 27.5% more welfare benefit enquiries this year. The main increases being:
- 30.9% increase about housing benefit
- 30.3% increase about disability benefits (PIP/DLA)
- 22.8% increase about tax credits
- 22.4% increase about employment and support allowance
Overall, the charity dealt with 0.8% more debt enquiries this year. The main increases being:
- 34.6% increase about council tax arrears
- 19.0% increase about housing association rent arrears
- 10.4% increase about water debts
Client case studies – focus on debt and money problems:
- A client living in Exeter suffering from anxiety and depression had a bailiff knocking at the door due to unpaid debts. We spoke to the bailiff to explain the background to the case and the help we were providing to the client and the bailiff agreed to hold off further action until the advice need had been resolved. The client told us that she was very re-assured.
- A vulnerable, unemployed, client was being chased for an unpaid debt of less than £200 by bailiffs. The bailiff firm was seeking a disproportionate additional set up fee of over £300 to recover the debt.
- A client with a gambling problem had run up debts of over £1,000 on their mobile phone contract due to online bingo. Once the account had been authorised the mobile phone company failed to provide any further checks on the affordability of the levels of debt being incurred.
Overall, the charity dealt with 32.7% more employment enquiries this year. The main changes being:
- 53.8% increase about dispute resolution
- 32.1% increase about pay and entitlements
- 28.3% increase about dismissal
Overall, the charity dealt with 41.8% more housing enquiries this year. The main changes being:
- 70.5% increase about actual homelessness
- 55.5% increase about local authority property
- 39.5% increase about private sector property