The experience of local Citizens Advice gives a unique, fresh insight into the problems faced every day by people living in the UK.
As well giving advice we also use what we see and hear to prevent problems in the first place. The stories clients share with Wiltshire Citizens Advice gives us a unique insight into the problems faced by people in Wiltshire.
With over two million clients seen in England and Wales each year by the Citizens Advice service it's the kind of evidence that's hard to ignore. It's all too apparent when policies and services cause people problems.
We see it as our responsibility to create a public debate around these issues and to speak up for clients.
Citizens Advice, locally and nationally, collects evidence of clients' problems and uses this to campaign for changes in national and local policies and services. We have a key role in speaking up for clients, raising issues brought to us, contributing to public debate and informing legislation.
The policy / campaign work of the Citizens Advice service covers a huge range of issues including consumer, debt, housing, benefits, immigration, employment, legal matters and health. We work with policymakers, regulators, MPs, and service providers.
Helping to help more people than the people we see
Everyone is affected by rules and principles which shape the services and benefits we all rely on. These may include regulations, codes of practice, legislation, guidelines and policies of service providers; they may be national, regional or local. All social policy work undertaken is rooted in the experiences of real people who are adversely affected by these policies; social policy is about campaigning to bring about changes to make the rules (and their implementation) fairer for all.
The Citizens Advice service has built a strong reputation for independent analysis and has worked with government, companies, regulators, trade associations and consumer groups to secure change for those who are adversely affected by unfair policies.
It is recognised that the best way to tackle any problem is to treat the cause, not just the symptoms. This is what social policy aims to do. We cannot see everyone who needs help individually and many people do not access our services, for various reasons. However, we can - and do - reach out and help people beyond our core service users through our social policy work, by bringing about changes that reduce unfairness.
Fixing Universal Credit
Why Universal Credit matters
By 2022, 7 million families in the UK will be on Universal Credit. Over half of those will be in work.
The aim – to simplify our benefits system – is right. But Universal Credit is already failing many people.
It is forcing people into debt and leaving them without the means to make ends meet.
At Citizens Advice across the country we’re already helping thousands of people who are claiming Universal Credit.
If the problems with Universal Credit aren’t fixed they will escalate. That’s why we’ve been campaigning for the Government to address the issues with Universal Credit before this happens.
If they don’t, 7 million households will face serious financial risk.
Campaigning to fix problems with Universal Credit
Since Universal Credit was introduced we’ve used our clients’ evidence to help us persuade the Government to make changes that ensure UC works for the people who need it.
Locally and nationally Citizens Advice have been campaigning since July 2017 for the government to pause and fix Universal Credit.
This is because our evidence shows that Universal Credit can leave people unable to pay essential bills and can risk pushing them into debt and hardship whilst they wait for their first payment.
In November’s Budget, the Government announced a number of changes, including a £1.5 billion package of support for UC. These changes should make a significant difference to the millions of people who will be claiming UC by the time it’s fully implemented. We will continue to keep a close eye on the roll-out of UC and make sure they do.
The changes include:
- Removing the 7 waiting days
- Introducing an additional non-repayable financial payment for those moving from Housing Benefit to UC to help people pay their rent.
- Changes to Advance Payments so claimants can receive 100% of their payment as an advance, and pay it back over 12 months. All claimants should be told they can get an Advance Payment
- Making the UC helpline free
- A slowdown in the roll out of full service UC
- Closure of new claims to the ‘live service’
The Government will be looking again at Universal Support to ensure those who need it are helped to get onto UC and to adapt to the changes involved, and wider changes to UC and the taper rate are under review.
We’ve called for all these changes in recent months and believe they will make a real difference to the people we help.
Housing: There's no place like home
Wiltshire Citizens Advice has been addressing this question over the past two years in a research study based on actual feelings and experiences. This briefing (available to download below) is not a detailed report on our research, largely because many of the issues identified remain unresolved and therefore our research must be ongoing. Rather, it constitutes the key messages and recommendations from our findings to date.
This briefing is intended for those who would like greater understanding of people's broad and inclusive housing needs, together with how these work alongside the provision available in Wiltshire.
Our contributors; including clients coping with housing issues, interested members of the public, staff and professionals whose daily work involves advising, representing or helping them; offer both operational and strategic housing insights that should be useful to all working in housing across Wiltshire.
We recognise that our ‘client-eye-view of Wiltshire’s housing’ may be coloured by impending loss of a home or the threat of homelessness, but argue its relevance to any county-wide housing policy. We also interviewed people who had voluntarily walked into our offices from ‘street-level’ to talk to us about what they thought made a successful and sustainable home.
We have archived a more than 30,000 recorded words, in response to +80 different interview questions and a broad range of interviewees also included people working in legal representation, Local Authority, social housing allocation and clients struggling with the threat of eviction, or trying to gain a foothold in the rented sector (both social and private). All Wiltshire Citizens Advice staff have had an opportunity to contribute ideas from their first-hand experience. The rich data collected through our research study will be utilised in taking forward the recommendations contained within this briefing.
The conclusions and recommendations which follow, are a result of this effort. As a strategy to simplify matters, and help eliminate any confusion, the conclusions are divided into the strategic and operational.
Need housing advice?
Past campaign successes
Over the years we have campaigned on a range of different issues in order to improve the policies and services that affect our clients. These are just a handful of the campaigns we are most proud of.
Making Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) #FitforWork
What was the problem?
Payday loans campaign
What was the problem?
How we got involved
Advertising practices under the microscope: Complaints were made about several payday loan ads and a number have already been banned.
Read more about how our clients and the wider public have benefitted from our sucessful campaigns - campaign successes.
Research and campaigning with us
Interested in being a local campaigner or researcher with Wiltshire Citizens Advice? Find out how you can volunteer with our research and campaigning team.