Research & Campaigns

In Summer and Autumn 2023 Citizens Advice  devised a short questionnaire about access to, and use of the internet to gather evidence of people’s experience of increased digitization and their ability to use online services.

The surveys were conducted through phone calls to randomly selected CAE clients, and with the general public face to face at festivals and at locations such as the Exeter central library.

At Citizens Advice Exeter, we often see clients who are struggling to cope with these online services whilst not having the equipment, skills or confidence to do so. People who are digitally excluded cannot participate fully in society and often suffer added hardship as a result; they deserve alternative ways to access these services. 

Please see our report below for this unique insight into this concerning issue...

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We have sent this report : ‘The urgent case for energy bill support this winter’ to all councillors and interested parties, along with the stories from some of our clients- Please see below.  We have particular concerns about the fact that some clients who received the Warm Home Discount (WHD)  in previous years, did not qualify this year as the eligibility criteria changed.  We would consider some of these clients to be considered particularly vulnerable due to physical or mental health needs.  

For example one of our cases was of  a client who previously received WHD for several years based on means tested benefits and health conditions. This year, following changes to the scheme, he has been told he does not qualify. Cl has serious health issues that require him to stay warm in his home, but he has limited benefit level of income; he is not eligible for £150 assistance.

The Warm Home Discount has provided an important source of financial assistance with energy bills during winter months for many years. However, the government changed the criteria this year to only focus on customers receiving means tested benefits AND living in properties with 'high energy costs'.  Leaving aside the fact that the vast majority of people are struggling with 'high energy costs',  it is our experience that many people of working age who had successfully applied for WHD in previous years now no longer qualify. Although not perfect, the previous operation of the WHD scheme by suppliers allowed for working age customers with health conditions and dependent children as well as receipt of means tested benefits to qualify. The current scheme makes no such distinction and now effectively penalises any customer living in a small to medium sized flat or house. The energy crisis has not gone away, and the poorest and most vulnerable energy customers will continue to bear the brunt of high energy costs this winter. It is wrong to have withdrawn entitlement to the assistance that WHD provides from these customers.

Here are some more of our client experiences which show the real struggle and impact the Cost of Living crisis and the loss of a benefit they were previously entitled to:

Client has received the WHD for the last few years but this year it appears that the client is not eligible. Cl is a single mother with two dependent children on UC; this payment helped her in previous years to survive the winter; cl will really struggle this year without the payment.

Client is in a private rented flat and pays for his electricity via a coin meter; he does not have his own electricity account. As a result, the client is missing out on the warm home discount, priority service register etc. Cl is struggling for money and because of not having his own energy account is missing out on potential support.  This client has received on going support from us via fuel vouchers.

Client received the warm home discount in 21/22 but did not receive the latest payment for 22/23, since the rules were changed. Cl is on Universal Credit and struggling to pay her energy bills and she had not had any electricity for a couple of days as she is on a Pre payment meter and could not afford to top up.  She has since received ongoing support from us via pre payment meter vouchers.

 Client does not qualify for warm home discount under the new automated scheme, probably because she lives in a relatively newly built 2 bed flat. However, cl is a lone parent of 2 children under 5 with health issues. Cl misses out on £150 payment at a time of soaring fuel costs and cl would likely have qualified under the old system which took more account of income, health issues and dependent children.

During the Autumn of 2023, our Research and Campaigns team have been working on a leaflet and a poster to make pre settled parents of new babies aware that it is important to register their babies as pre settled to avoid hospital bills. We are aware of people being hit with hospital bills because they were unaware of this requirement.  

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During the Spring of 2023, Citizens Advice Exeter staff and volunteers undertook a survey of 200 people to gauge the impact of the cost of living crisis (COL) on Exeter residents.

The results, in terms of all of the criteria we looked at, are stark. The comments people made in respect of the effect of COL on their mental health makes for difficult reading, with many people’s mental health deteriorating - even suicide was mentioned.

We encountered a great deal of concern around housing costs and potential homelessness- a direct consequence of the squeeze on budgets, combined with the increase in mortgage costs, and rapidly rising rents made much worse by the three year freeze in local housing allowance (LHA).

We call on government to increase benefits and LHA in line with the real costs encountered by people in this highly challenging climate.

      Click here to read the full Cost of Living Report

      For enquiries about the content of the above report, please address these to:

          During the summer of 2022 our Research and Campaigns team undertook some research and campaigning work in regards to Scams and Scams Awareness. 

          They created a questionnaire and asked the general public at various outreach /promotional events questions about the level and range of scams they had experienced.

          They also wanted to assess the level of knowledge in the Exeter region in respect to the level of scams, if the public knew how to report scams, and educate them in how to get scam alerts.  All of this information has been analysed and reviewed. 

          As a result a very insightful Scams Awareness Report has been produced.  It is very sobering reading and a sign of our times that everyone that we surveyed had been involved in an actual scam or targeted by scammers.  It is a dangerous business, incurring not only a significant financial impact on the residents of Exeter but also taking an emotional toil as well. 

              Click here to read the full 'Scams Awareness' report

              During April 2021 to March 2022 some staff and volunteers of Citizens Advice Exeter undertook extensive research into our client’s experiences in relation to telephone health assessments for their Personal Independence Payment applications.  

              As a result of this research we have produced a report called ‘Calling for Change:  Telephone Health Assessment Fail the Test’ – see link below for full details of the report and our key findings and recommendations.  

              The report was sent to local councillors and some MPs, one of whom was Sir Stephen Timms (Chair, Work and Pensions Select Committee) who commented: ‘ I was interested to read that about one fifth of people involved in your survey weren’t given any notice before being contacted to complete their health assessment. I will keep this in mind as the Committee moves forward with our inquiry and begins to think about making recommendations to the Government.’ For more details of the work of this committee please go to:  

              If you would like to talk to us about this report or would like paper copies, please do contact us via We aim to respond within 5 working days of receipt of any emails.  

              Thank you for taking an interest in this important piece of research.

                  Click here to read the full ‘Calling for Change: Telephone Health Assessment Fail the Test’ report