Welfare reforms leading to more benefit enquiries

Media release
Monday 27 June 2016

Leading local advice charity, Citizens Advice Exeter, today publishes its advice trend statistics for the period 1 April – 31 May 2016. The charity has helped 38% more people with their advice and information when compared to the same period in 2015.

The advice trends over the period were as follows:

Welfare benefits

Overall, the charity dealt with 47.8% more welfare benefit enquiries. The main increases being:

  • 60.9% about employment and support allowance
  • 44.2% about tax credits
  • 42.5% about disability benefits (PIP/DLA)
  • 32.9% about housing benefit

Client case studies – focus on welfare benefit enquiries:

  1. A client with severe disabilities whose benefit application was turned down without any contact with her GP to confirm her situation. The client has appealed the decision but has had to pay her GP for a supporting letter.
  2. A client with a life-long disability and limited literacy experienced the stress and anxiety of having to navigate an overly complex benefits re-assessment process. The DWP already had a range of information that confirmed that the clients situation would not improve.
  3. A client who successfully overturned a decision to refuse her disability benefits on appeal had to wait more than two month’s for payment to be re-instated
  4. A client who was being chased for an overpayment of tax credits by HMRC received no written confirmation of how the overpayment had been calculated or which period it related to


Overall, the charity dealt with 43.6% more debt enquiries. The main increases being:

  • 101.6% about council tax arrears
  • 80.6% about bankruptcy and debt relief orders
  • 52.8% about water debts


Overall, the charity dealt with 29.8% more employment enquiries. The main increases being:

  • 145.0% about pay and entitlements
  • 35.0% about dismissal


Overall, we have dealt with 16.8% more housing enquiries. The main increases being:

  • 66.6% about actual homelessness
  • 23.3% about threatened homelessness

Chief Executive Steve Barriball said: “The increases in welfare benefit and tax credit enquiries, on top of increases throughout last year, highlight the impact of the reforms over the last five years or so. Clients often tell us of the increased levels of stress and anxiety that they experience when their application is turned down. Where we can, we help clients to appeal decisions and, often, get the decision overturned. However, many clients tell us that they cannot face the further stress and anxiety of the appeals process.”

Steve continued: “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 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.