Welfare reforms leading to more benefit enquiries

Media release
Wednesday 28 July 2016

Leading local advice charity, Citizens Advice Exeter, today publishes its advice trend statistics for the first three-months of the financial year. The charity has helped 25% more people with their advice and information when compared to the same period in 2015.

The advice trends over the period were as follows:


Overall, the charity has dealt with 26.8% more debt enquiries. The main increases being:

  • 77.0% about bankruptcy and debt relief orders
  • 47.3% about water debts
  • 46.0% about council tax arrears

Client case studies – focus on debt and money problems:

  1. A disabled client who is facing financial struggles because her benefit payments have not been made even after she has successfully taken the case to a social security tribunal.
  2. A client who is now in rent arrears because his employer has made deductions from his wages with no explanation or notice.
  3. A client who is facing a severe financial crisis because her employer has failed to pay her sick pay whilst she has been off work.

Welfare benefits

Overall, the charity has dealt with 30.8% more welfare benefit enquiries. The main increases being:

  • 211.0% about disability benefits (PIP/DLA)
  • 50.3% about employment and support allowance
  • 46.9% about jobseekers allowance
  • 15.4% about housing benefit


Overall, the charity has dealt with 53.4% more employment enquiries. The main changes being:

  • 131.0% about pay and entitlements
  • 58.8% about dismissal


Overall, the charity has dealt with 18.3% more housing enquiries. The main changes being:

  • 100.0% about actual homelessness
  • 37.1% about threatened homelessness

Chief Executive Steve Barriball said: “In relation debt trends, these suggest that households may be putting themselves at risk by prioritising consumer credit debts – such as credit card bills, personal loans or overdraft repayments –  ahead of household bills, like rent, mortgage, council tax and utility bills. The priority should always be to pay off household bills first, otherwise households risk further financial and emotional hardship”

Steve continued: “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 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 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 (www.citizensadviceexeter.org.uk)”

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