Recent research and campaigns

Cost of Living Crisis

February 2022
Prices are rising at the fastest rate in 30 years; energy bills alone will rise by more than 50% in April. For the average household on a default tariff (11 million households) that would be an increase of around £60 per month. That doesn’t include an additional £94 which will be clawed back via energy bills from April 2022 to pay for the cost of dozens of energy companies failing.
We are all feeling the squeeze but the soaring costs of essentials will hurt low income families, whose budgets are already stretched, most. 
Families are still reeling from the £20 cut to Universal Credit last October. And, though benefits will increase by 3.1% in April, inflation is projected to be 6% by then. This means yet another real terms cut to incomes.
In response to this latest energy cap price rise, the government has announced a package of support to help households with rising energy bills. But it's a complicated and untargeted package of measures. While it provides some relief for all households come April, for people on low incomes who need it most, there are far easier ways for the government to deliver targeted support.
You can read more about the issues families are facing in our latest research report below:
Citizens Advice, drawing on their expertise as the energy consumer watchdog and leading welfare advice provider, recommend four steps to deal with the challenge over the coming year:
  1. Reduce the immediate financial pressure low income households will feel in April. The best way of doing this quickly is through a one-off payment via the benefits system. 

  2. Spread the cost of energy supplier failures over a longer period (2-3 years) rather than current plans (recovering the majority in 2022/3)

  3. Uprate benefits in line with current inflation, offset by lower increases in the following financial year (with the overall impact of the change being cost neutral).

  4. Recognise this crisis will stretch through to next winter - when the risks from cold weather are greatest - and start developing solutions now. By increasing and extending the Winter 2022 Warm Home Discount we can have the provision in place that will protect the lowest income households from the worst excesses of the coming price increases. 

Need advice? 

If you're worried about rising energy costs, struggling to pay your bills, or would like information about support schemes to help lower your energy costs please contact us.

Keep the Lifeline

January 2021

We urged the Government to keep the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. 

In the lead up to the Spring Budget, we urged the Government to keep this lifeline in place to support families who need it through the rest of the crisis and our recovery, as well as ensuring we have an adequate social security system for the future. 

We also urged the Government to make this much-needed £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits permanent, and extend it to legacy claimants so that this group, who are mainly disabled, sick and carers, don’t continue to be excluded. 

You can follow the #KeepTheLifeline campaign on Twitter. 

Read more updates... 

Employment issues in Wiltshire during Covid-19

August 2020

We are facing the worst jobs crisis for a generation. Citizens Advice research shows 1 in 6 (17%) are facing redundancy. A recent YouGov poll revealed more than a third of UK employers plan to make staff redundant over the next three months.  Hundreds of thousands more have already lost their jobs - people like Lottie*. 

Lottie* has asthma and faces potentially higher risks from coronavirus so she was furloughed by her employer at a local nursery, where she’s worked for the past year and a half. Lottie has now been made redundant, with one week’s notice. She did not receive any redundancy pay and has no savings. Lottie turned to us as she worried how she would manage to look after her family and pay the rent. 

We’re helping people like Lottie once every two minutes with a redundancy problem. In July 2020, we helped six times the number of people with a redundancy problem than we had the previous year.

The labour market is in a perilous state, kept afloat by the Job Retention Scheme, the single biggest peacetime intervention in the economy in history. But even that has not proved enough to hold all jobs in stasis. Employment fell by 730,000 in July, with the youngest and oldest workers hardest hit by redundancies thus far. Those aged 16 to 24 years in the labour market decreased by 100,000, while those aged 65 years and over decreased by a record 161,000 from April to June 2020.

The number of people claiming benefits who were not in work has risen to the highest levels for 20 years. And the total number of hours worked has fallen by almost 9%, the fastest decline on record. Every indicator seems to break new records in highlighting how profoundly the coronavirus pandemic has damaged the economy and people’s jobs. 

Alongside this sobering picture, we can add our own insights from the problems people are coming to us about. The retention scheme formally runs until the end of October, but employers, who since August have faced the requirement to make contributions and statutory timescales for redundancies, will feel the financial pressure to make decisions now.

Our new report, which you can download below, summarises the redundancy issues and other employment problems we’re supporting people with in this jobs crisis; and how this is affecting people’s finances and ability to pay their rent, council tax and other household bills now and in the future.

*Client name has been changed.

Seven things to check if you’re at risk of redundancy

We have helped people with a huge range of issues since lockdown, but we know that as the furlough scheme winds down, lots of people may be feeling worried and need advice.

If you’re at risk of redundancy, it’s important to know you do have rights to help protect you from unfair dismissal and to ensure you’re paid what you’re owed.

Click here to see our seven things to check if you’re at risk of redundancy

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