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 (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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.