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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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/
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by 12 October 2020. Joining instructions will be sent in advance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.