News

We have raft of new volunteer opportunities across Oxfordshire – make your New Year’s resolution early!

As many households face a difficult winter, Citizens Advice is seeing a higher demand for advice and charitable support, and urgently need more volunteers. The number of people seeking debt advice in September 2021 increased by 11% on the month before and is now 20% higher than this time last year. We are looking for volunteers with all kinds of skills. Training is provided. Volunteers are asked to contribute a minimum of 7-8 hours per week, which could be in the local office, working with a community partner or working from home.

Early warnings about rising household costs and the withdrawal of temporary support measures next year 

Key covid protections will provide vital support for some families in crisis this winter, but these protections are limited in reach and will end just as energy prices are set to increase even more sharply. We are seeing higher demand for debt advice and charitable support, and a growing proportion of people we help with debt can’t cover their essential costs each month. We expect the number of citizens needing debt advice to increase to higher than pre-pandemic levels across all districts, and we are concerned that debt advice funding is not currently sufficient to support that.

It's Talk Money Week. Citizens Advice encourage people to start talking about money

Talk Money Week aims to encourage conversations among families, friends, neighbours, customers, colleagues and communities. Talking openly about money can have a huge impact on tackling money worries, and is important for our overall health and relationships. The impact of Covid-19 has made it more important than ever to look after our financial wellbeing. Throughout the week there will be activity across the UK to get more people talking about personal finance issues, and engaging with topics such as saving regularly, planning for retirement, dealing with debt, and teaching children and young people about managing money.

Anxious about higher energy costs and suppliers going bust?

Citizens Advice is asking the Government to provide emergency grant support, to provide extra to help people particularly affected by the rising cost of living. There are ways you can reduce how much electricity and gas you use. Take a look at our advice. Or call your local Citizens Advice office for energy bills advice, support you if you want to switch and calculate the savings you might make. If you've fallen behind on bill payments, we can advise on ways to reduce your debt by budgeting or trying a new payment scheme.

If you are worried about getting less Universal Credit?

From 6 October 2021, the amount of Universal Credit you’ll get will go down by £86.67 a month. This affects everyone claiming Universal Credit - there aren’t any exceptions. If you are struggling with living costs, your council may be able to give you vouchers to help with daily essentials and provide support with housing costs. Could you apply for free school meals? If your income has been reduced, you may be eligible for lower council tax. Please read our advice and then talk to us. We are here to help.

How to get some help with school costs

"I’m a single parent and lost my job during the pandemic. My local Citizens Advice helped me apply for Universal Credit which has been really helpful to cover some of the income I’ve lost. I don't know how I'll be able to pay for the school uniforms and shoes. Is there any other support out there to help plug the gap?" If you're on a low income or employed, you might be able to get help with some of the costs of sending your child to school, including school meals, transport and uniform.

Oxford Citizens Advice Macmillan project gives benefits advice to over 1000 people living with cancer each year.

Thanks to Macmillan providing a funding extension of 3 years, Citizens Advice Oxford can continue to give cancer patients experiencing money issues expert advice on claiming the right benefits and grants. The service has helped over 1,000 people living with cancer and being treated at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford over the last year alone, and over 10,000 since it first started in 2008.

Benefits cut of £20-a-week set to hit 1 in 9 people across Oxfordshire

Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire is urging the government against a cut to Universal Credit that would impact 1 in 9 working-age people in Oxfordshire. According to the latest available figures, approximately 40% of residents set to see their benefits drop are families with children and 44% are already in work. “Taking away my £20 per week is incomprehensible – it’s such a huge amount”. Join us to urge the Government to keep the uplift for the long term.

Keep The Lifeline by holding the £20 per week uplift

"I’ve heard that Universal Credit is going to be cut from September. I struggle to get by as it is and I’m really worried that if I lose £20 a week, I’ll get into serious debt. I’m already behind on some of my bills. What can I do to avoid things getting worse?" You’re not alone in this - there is support available. We are encouraging the Government to keep the uplift. Take a look at our advice and talk to us. We are here to help.

We are a Hate Crime reporting centre

If you've experienced an act of violence or hostility because of who you are or someone thinks you are, you may have been the victim of a hate incident or hate crime. Hate incidents and hate crime happen because of prejudice or hostility based on a person's disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity. The law considers hate incidents and hate crime to be particularly serious. We are a Hate Crime Reporting Centre. Free advice and support with NO need to report the crime to the police if you do not wish to.

2 in 3 people in the South East targeted by scammer so far in 2021

65% of people in the South East have been targeted by a scammer since January, new research by Citizens Advice has found. Fraudsters tried to trick locals in a range of ways, but the biggest scam faced by Oxfordshire locals is delivery scams. 56% of people in the area said they’d been contacted about a scam of this kind. To encourage people to report scams, share their experiences and look out for others, Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire and Trading Standards are launching their annual Scams Awareness campaign.

It's Volunteer Week! Thank you to our outstanding volunteers

Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire has continued giving advice to those in need throughout the coronavirus pandemic thanks to the tireless dedication of its staff and volunteers. As part of Volunteers’ Week, which runs from 1 to 7 June, Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire wants to thank their 500 volunteers for their exceptional contribution to the service and local community.

Remember! Citizens Advice is here to help young adults in debt too

For many of us affording to live is a struggle as we pick our way through our post-pandemic economy. But the situation is tougher for young adults trying to scrabble a foothold in an age of scarce jobs, college fees and expensive housing. If you are in this position, start putting things right today. Make a list of your debts. Contact your creditors. There is every reason to feel hopeful. Read on and get in touch. We are here for you.

Citizens Advice organisations across Oxfordshire pledge to address food poverty in the county with the following actions:

By building and maintaining strong relationships with local food agencies, referring people in need to appropriate local support organisations, recording the numbers of people referred, and evidencing the underlying reasons for the need. We will communicate this evidence to local decision makers in order to influence and address underlying causes of food poverty in the county. Please let us know if we can work with your organisation to help those in need.

final_notice_heritageblue

Breathing Space gives people temporary protection while they take action to get on top of their debts.

From 4th May 2021, the new Breathing Space and Mental Health Crisis Debt Respite Schemes will come into effect in England and Wales. Citizens Advice’s expert debt advisors explain what you need to know about the new initiative. Breathing Space is a new scheme that gives people temporary protection from most types of debt collection while they take action to get on top of their debts. You can apply through a debt adviser for sixty days’ Breathing Space. Specific conditions apply for this scheme.

couple_on_bench_heritageblue

Benefits in Place – a new pilot making our advice more accessible to those in need

We are excited to announce the launch of our new Benefits in Place pilot.  Funded by Oxfordshire County Council Public Health, we are transforming the previous Benefits in Practice service to make it more accessible to those in need. For many years, we provided advice through some GP surgeries. We are extending this service by creating access points in partnership with more frequently visited local agencies and organisations.  A new, digital referral system will enable health professionals, food banks and other providers from any Oxfordshire location to refer clients quickly and easily.

Successful partnerships with housing associations helps many tenants in financial hardship

Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire has a number of partnerships with housing associations and social landlords that manage property within the county. Housing associations provide affordable homes for rent and shared ownership.  Citizens Advice provide money advice services to their customers.  Our advice and support, often to people with underlying conditions, ranges from budgeting advice, prioritising debts, and ensuring people are on the right benefits to working with the housing associations to prevent possession proceedings. 68% of the people using the advice services have a long-term health condition or a disability. 

Local Housing Allowance in Oxfordshire

With the freezing of Local Housing Allowance, and rent rises, renters will struggle to cover costs

A year after the Government brought Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates back up to the 30th percentile of local private sector rent prices, the rates will be frozen again this April. This means in real terms (with rental inflation in most areas) the allowance will be cut for many renters in receipt of welfare benefits. With the economic impact of Covid-19 still being felt in 2021, there is concern that as rental costs rise, and support reduces, restricting Housing Allowances will contribute to people’s inability to pay their rent without getting into debt or going without other essentials.

Citizens Advice Oxfordshire supports Debt Awareness Week 2021 as debt concerns grow

We are encouraging people who have never discussed their debts before to start the conversation during Debt Awareness Week. We are very concerned about the number of people falling into debt – many of whom have never been in debt before. Between 1 March 2020 and 28 February this year, Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire has helped 2,750 people with over 7,000 debt issues. This is significantly lower than the previous year. People are urged to get in touch now, rather than wait for further action to be taken. This could prevent court action being taken, and ensure that everyone receives the help that they need.

Citizens Advice has helped more than 27,000 people across Oxfordshire during the past year of the pandemic

Our charity quickly adapted to help more people via the phone, email and webchat. Benefits and universal credit support, employment and debt have been the top pandemic issues. Between 1 March 2020 and 28 February this year, we helped 24,000 people with benefits including Universal Credit, and 8,800 people with employment issues. Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire has seen many worrying cases such as a dad who lost his job due to Coronavirus, fell into in debt and could not feed his three children...

Take part in Census 21to help make decisions that shape our community

The census is on Sunday 21 March 2021. By taking part, you can help inform decisions on services that shape your community, such as healthcare, education and transport. It’s important that you fill in your census questionnaire. Without the information you share, it’d be more difficult to understand our community’s needs and to plan and fund public services. The census can be completed online within the window 1st March to 4th May. If you need help to complete their Census, we can provide support on the telephone, or face to face (in our Banbury office) in a Covid-secure environment. The number for appointments is 01295 238300.

Don’t despair. Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire can help you with debt

When bills start piling up, we understand how frightening it is for people experiencing money troubles. Citizens Advice has a wealth of experience in debt managing advice and we always encourage people to talk to us as soon as they can. We can guide people about where to start, such as sorting priority and non-priority debts and then contacting creditors and banks. If circumstances have changed, see our advice.

Winter Support Grant

Thanks to our partnership with Oxfordshire County Council and Vale of White Horse District Council, we are proud to have been chosen to distribute the Winter Grant funding to those most in need. The funding has been allocated to ensure our most vulnerable residents are able to buy food and keep their homes warm this winter. Support is available in the form of advice, supermarket and fuel vouchers or through the direct payment of energy or water bills.

Are energy bills a crippling cost?

Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire is working to support households to keep warm, reduce the risk of people struggling to afford energy and essential food costs, tackle fuel poverty and reduce climate change across the county. The charity is managing three services to help people most in need. 1) Energy and money saving advice for people on a low income 2) Fuel credit for people on a pre-payment meter in need of emergency credit 3) Winter grant for households impacted by Covid-19

Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire urges government against “devastating” Universal Credit cut

On average 49% of people seeking its advice on benefits have never needed its support before The number of people claiming Universal Credit in Oxfordshire has risen by on average 110% since the pandemic began The local charity has warned of the “devastating impact” of a scheduled cut to Universal Credit in April.

New research into the incidence of people with mental wellbeing problems contacting CANOSN during the pandemic

In November 2020, 19% of adults experienced some form of depression, while 17% of adults experienced some form of anxiety. Citizens Advice North Oxfordshire and South Northants are undertaking research to compare people with mental well being problems contacting them during a 'normal year' compared to recent pandemic times. The aim is to give people the most appropriate targeted support.

Rent before presents

Research shows over half of us will spend more than we earn in December and the average time to pay off our Christmas debt is five months. We want to encourage people to please take extra care with their spending this Christmas. The reality is that the rent still needs to be paid. Take a look at some budgeting tips.

Citizens Advice can guide you through a claim for benefits

If you are unemployed, have a low income, an illness or disability, or are caring for somebody, you could get Universal Credit. . Always do a benefits check before starting an application. Citizens Advice has a dedicated “Help to claim” team to get you started on claiming benefits. Phone us on 0800 144 8444 (Mon-Fri 0800 to 1800) or use webchat (same hours).

Lockdown wardrobe clear out? Citizens Advice gives top tips to help people sell and buy online second hand safely

Citizens Advice has found that a staggering 96% of UK adults have bought something online since the country first went into lockdown in March. The number of people seeking help from Citizens Advice about these platforms has increased by over a quarter (28%) in the last year. See our tips to help you buy and sell safely.

Over 2 in 5 people in the South East have had a parcel delivery problem since first March lockdown

Citizens Advice has found that over two in five (45%) of people in the South East have had an issue with parcel delivery since the country went into lockdown in March. This comes at a time when over half (51%) of people across the country feel more reliant on parcel deliveries as a result of the pandemic, with 97% of people in the South East saying they’d ordered a parcel since March. See our tips for safer online shopping too.

The people we help make us so proud of the work we do

"I can't praise the service I received enough. Absolutely overwhelmed . You made my life 100% better and rid me of the stress carried for years. I was treated respectfully and with kindness. Thank you" Client helped by Citizens Advice in Oxfordshire. See what other people said about how we helped them move forward.

Removing benefit uplift will leave people unable to cover basics, Citizens Advice analysis reveals

Significant numbers of people risk being pushed into a position where they can’t pay their essential bills and could face spiralling debts if the uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit is not extended beyond April 2020. This is according to new analysis from Citizens Advice released today. Analysis of the people Citizens Advice helps with debt who receive Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit shows that 75% wouldn’t be able to cover their essential household bills if the uplift is removed.

West Oxfordshire Citizens Advice AGM

We are delighted to invite you to this year’s Virtual Annual General Meeting for Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire. Due to Government restrictions the meeting will be held via zoom, which will be available for you to view live on our Facebook page; https://en-gb.facebook.com/CitizensAdviceWestOxon/

Oxfordshire South and Vale Citizens Advice AGM

Citizens Advice South and Vale Annual General Meeting will be online on Tuesday 20th October 2020 at 7.00. For details of how to attend the meeting, please contact sarah.purdie@osavacab.org.uk by 12 October 2020. Joining instructions will be sent in advance.

Worried about redundancy? Check your rights and talk to us

One of the most serious outcomes of the current pandemic problem is that thousands of people in the UK are losing their jobs. If you are one of these people, and are made redundant or offered voluntary redundancy, it is important that you thoroughly understand your rights and options. There is lots of advice on citizensadvice.org.uk or call one of our advisers in your local Citizens Advice office.

Electric blanket testing is still available in Oxfordshire

The offer of a FREE test of any electric blankets is still available in Oxfordshire this year. Instead of booking a slot at a centre and bringing your blanket along, please book a slot for your blanket to be sent in a bag with the blanket and cable, and this will then be collected and returned the same day after it has been tested. Book your slot for October.

Money mules and online ‘get rich quick’ scams

Scammers will often use fake job adverts, or create social media posts about opportunities to make money quickly, in order to lure potential money mule recruits. Beware of cash or rewards in exchange for the use of bank accounts and social media posts promoting easy ways of making money.

Organise your fuel bills now before winter starts - free energy and money saving advice

Did you know that Citizens Advice has advisers who can help you sign up with a new fuel or electricity company, or switch to a better tariff? There’s no charge for our time and you won’t be steered towards one particular supplier because we're impartial, having no links with any of them. We offer one-on-one sessions (by telephone at present) and we'll take a close look at your individual situation. Find your local Citizens Advice office for a free energy advice session.

Around 3,500 older people in Oxfordshire are still failing to get the Pension Credit they are due

Pension Credit is a welfare benefit for people who are over state pension age on a low income. Without the award of Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, they will not be able to get a free TV licence either, which will leave people on already low incomes struggling to find an extra £150 this year and every year. In conjunction with, Age UK Oxfordshire we are calling on everyone aged over 75 to see if they are eligible for Pension Credit, if they haven’t already done so.

Parents, carers and disabled people at least twice as likely to face redundancy

With one in six (17%) of the working age population facing redundancy, it indicated that those in more vulnerable circumstances are likely to bear the brunt. A survey of 6,000 people shows: One in four disabled people (27%) were facing redundancy. This rose to 37% of those who said their disability has a large impact on their day-to-day life. Half of those who were in the shielded group (48%), as they were extremely clinically vulnerable to coronavirus, were at risk of redundancy Two in five parents or carers (39%) faced losing their job

Demand for rent arrears advice up 332%

With just one month to go until the end of the eviction ban (20 September), Citizens Advice is warning it has seen a huge surge in private renters worried about arrears. The charity believes that many renters will need financial support to pay back these debts or risk losing their homes. The charity is calling for extra funding to be made available to support people to pay back arrears resulting from coronavirus. The National Residential Landlords Association have called for extra financial help for renters in debt when the eviction ban ends.

Citizens Advice Oxfordshire help over 700 people per day during the peak of the pandemic

During the last three months of the Coronavirus pandemic, Citizens Advice has seen a dramatic increase in the number of local vulnerable people seeking advice to help them cope with the pandemic. At its peak, Citizens Advice Oxfordshire experienced 700 calls a day (triple their average) to the Adviceline. It is now expecting a second peak in demand as people are asked to return to work and debts and evictions can once again be pursued.

Two in five people in the South East targeted by a scammer since lockdown began

Two in five people (42% of people) in South East England have been the target of a scam since lockdown came into effect, finds Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire. Over two-thirds of people (69%) are worried someone they know will fall foul of a con. And the large majority of people (91%) reported they felt wary of coronavirus scams. As part of the 2020 Scams Awareness Campaign, Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire and Trading Standards are encouraging people to talk about their experiences and look out for others they think could be at risk.

Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire thanks its wonderful volunteers for their dedication

As part of Volunteers’ Week, which runs from 1 to 7 June, Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire wants to thank volunteers for their contribution not only during this exceptional time, but throughout the year. 560 volunteers at Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire contribute 3,200 hours each week. In the last year, Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire has helped over 27,000 people with 78,000 issues, such as debt, housing, benefit and employment issues. This shows how many more people now need our help.

Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire has helped 3,917 people since the Coronavirus lockdown began

Citizens Advice quickly mobilised its staff and volunteers to give one-to-one advice over the phone and via online chat across Oxfordshire, after the lockdown began on 23 March. The top four issues the charity has helped with are Benefits including Universal Credit (2,834 issues/1,444 people), Employment (1,228 issues/758 people), Debt (687 issues/307 people), and Housing (603 issues/375 people). We have also seen an increase in the number of people needing charitable support such as food banks or financial assistance for an essential need (500 issues/311 people). See what our community are asking us about.

Millions facing financial cliff edge when coronavirus protections end

New research from Citizens Advice has revealed that over 13 million people have already been unable to pay, or expect to be unable to pay, at least one bill because of the coronavirus outbreak. Of these, almost 11 million have missed or expect to miss a bill that would leave them vulnerable to severe consequences - including eviction, bailiff enforcement or disconnection - when Covid-19 financial protections end. We are calling for urgent government action to extend the protections for those most likely to suffer punitive enforcement.

Local Housing Allowance in Oxfordshire

More help for renters as Local Housing Allowance increases

The government has restored Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to cover the lowest 30% (30th percentile) of market rents to the level it was at in 2011. This is good news for some current and new private renters who are eligible for help with rent as it is likely to mean less of a gap between the actual rent and the amount they need to pay. As long as local rents do not rise in the short term, this will mean that proportionally more properties will be affordable for people receiving help with rent.

Citizens Advice see record breaking demand for advice

Citizens Advice has seen record-breaking demand for advice since the escalation of the coronavirus pandemic with the highest daily number of visitors to its website being topped four times last week. The web data shows a clear picture of the changing narrative of how this crisis is affecting people in the UK. See how advice needs have changed over the last few weeks.

Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire are here to help

Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire want to remind people that the charity is still here for everyone. At the moment, we are not able to provide face-to-face advice but we are bolstering our Adviceline telephone service to help anyone who is in need of advice.
To find advice, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk. If an answer cannot be found, call your Citizens Advice Adviceline on 03444 111 444 or find your local Citizens Advice. Citizens Advice website is constantly updated with the latest advice on what the coronavirus could mean for people.

Beware of Oxford Council Tax Whats App scam

A client was defrauded out of £850 this week when she received a WhatsApp message claiming to be from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). This claimed that she owed £1,600 in council tax and would be named and shamed in the newspapers and probably sent to jail if she didn’t pay up.
Oxford City Council collects council tax, not HMRC. The council does not contact people by WhatsApp about their council tax. If concerned, contact the Citizens Advice Scams Action helpline on 0808 250 5050 (9.00 to 17.00 weekdays).

Local Housing Allowance in Oxfordshire

The unfreezing of the Local Housing Allowance won’t help Witney residents in need of affordable homes to rent

The Government will end the four-year freeze to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates from 1 April 2020. However, the increase will not make a single extra 3-bedroom property within 5 miles of Witney affordable to those on low incomes, unless rents fall. This is indicative of a wider issue across Oxfordshire where those on low incomes are finding it increasingly hard to access and remain in the private rented sector. To ensure that everyone has a home that they can afford, Citizens Advice are calling on the Government to do more to bring the LHA rate back in line with local rents.

Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire are braced for the busiest time of the year for debt advice

Citizens Advice centres across Oxfordshire are expecting over 450 people to seek advice for debt concerns in January, including credit card debts, council tax arrears and rent arrears. Analysis of national data over a 12-month period reveals that on a single day - 29 January 2019 - Citizens Advice offices helped 2,776 people nationwide. This is 24% above the daily average and mostly driven by the Christmas spend.

Full, free immigration and translation services available

Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire are now able to help with more detailed immigration questions to OISC Level 3, the highest level of immigration learning for immigration adviser applicants. Translation services can also be provided free of charge. People are advised to get in touch with their local Citizens Advice for advice and support with any immigration issue

Citizens Advice have helped over 280 families in Oxfordshire keep a roof over their head this Christmas

Citizens Advice offices across Oxfordshire are delighted to announce that the charity is taking part in this year’s #GivingTuesday campaign, to be held on the 3rd of December 2019. The charity’s free advice and support helped over 280 families in Oxfordshire keep a roof over their heads last year. Over 500 families across Oxfordshire gained a combined total of £2.9 million in income.

Benefit claimants across Oxfordshire are struggling to afford essential bills and lose sleep over finances

People claiming benefits are struggling to meet essential costs such as rent, household bills and food. New data from national Citizens Advice reveals that almost one in two (49%) benefits claimants have struggled to pay for essentials, while 40% have lost sleep due to money worries. See the impact of Universal Credit in North Oxfordshire.

Be part of the next 80 years of volunteering with Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire

Citizens Advice across Oxfordshire wants people to be part of the next 80 years of its history by volunteering with them. The Citizens Advice service started almost 80 years ago on the eve of the Second World War and is supported by 22,000 volunteers across England and Wales. Find out more.

Social Prescribing Project to reduce isolation and improve wellbeing

Two Oxfordshire Citizens Advice offices have partnered to launch a new “Social Prescribing” service across Cherwell and West Oxfordshire called Community Connect. It connects people to local groups and services that help to reduce isolation and improve health and wellbeing. It’s medicine that’s not in a bottle.