Research and Campaigns
Alongside providing advice and support to help people to solve their problems, Citizens Advice LeicesterShire also aims to improve the policies and practices that unfairly affect people’s lives through our campaigns work.
We contribute to national campaigns through the national Citizens Advice network; collecting local statistics and case studies and campaigning locally on national issues. We also run local campaigns on issues that we see in Leicester and Leicestershire.
We are all affected by the rules and processes which shape the services and benefits that we all rely on. In order to improve unfair policies and practices and work towards a fairer society, we need your help.
If you would like to support us with Research and Campaigns, please apply to volunteer.
Recent research and campaigns updates
How can we help more people out of energy debt?
As we enter an extremely difficult winter, many more households are likely to get into debt. For people in receipt of benefits, one way to manage debt repayments is through third party deductions. At a time when so many people are struggling with their finances, it’s vital that the deductions scheme works effectively to support people out of debt. Citizens Advice carried out research with energy suppliers and interviews with people using the scheme to identify pain points in the process.
If you would like to read more about this, you can find more information in the Citizens Advice blog.
No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)
No Recourse to Public Funds is a condition attached to work, family and study visas which restricts access to much of the welfare safety net for almost 1.4 million people, including around 175,000 children. This includes vital benefits like Universal Credit and child benefit and a range of other support like homelessness assistance or access to refuges that rely on public funds to operate.
People with NRPF are locked out from support when they need it, despite their contributions to the UK’s economy and society. Over half (53%) of people with NRPF are in work and a further 31% are studying. Many (40%) have lived in the UK for more than five years and are building their life here. Almost a quarter of million of those in work are key workers, in professions like healthcare, social work, social care or transport. For more information, you can read more here.
Keep the Lifeline
Citizens Advice joined a coalition of 100 organisations calling on the Prime Minister to stop the planned £20 a week cut to Universal Credit. Despite the government deciding to go ahead with their decision to take away the £20-a-week uplift, local Citizens Advice secured more than 100 pieces of local coverage and whilst keep the lifeline social media content was shared thousands of times. We continue to utilize social media to keep up momentum and push the message that by taking away the uplift, the government may be forcing people into a cost of living crisis this winter.
Fixing Universal Credit
The coronavirus pandemic has turned lives upside down and threatened livelihoods. The number of employees has fallen by 740,000 since the start of the crisis, and the number of people claiming out-of-work benefits has skyrocketed to 2.6 million – the highest level in over 25 years.
Universal Credit has passed its first major test. It handled an unprecedented surge in benefit claims, providing vital financial support for millions of families. But the benefit must now pass a much harder test.
A record 2.4 million people on Universal Credit are now searching for work, with more expected to join the growing queue of job-seekers as furlough winds down at the end of September.
The Government has already taken important steps to reduce a long-term unemployment crisis. 13,500 new work coaches have been recruited, while schemes like Kickstart are supporting young people into work. But these efforts risk being undermined by rules within Universal Credit that prevent some people from finding and sustaining employment.
3 aspects of Universal Credit need fixing to ensure an equitable recovery from this crisis:
- Paying childcare costs upfront
- Widening access to the work allowance for disabled people
- Ensuring a more flexible approach to conditionality
Scams Awareness Fortnight 2021
14 – 27 June 2021 was Scams Awareness fortnight!
More than 2 in 3 adults — over 36 million — have been targeted by a scammer since January 2021. Citizens Advice CEO, Clare Moriarty, said: “From fraudulent get-rich-quick schemes to dodgy texts, opportunistic scammers continue to prey on even the savviest of consumers. Our research shows that when it comes to scams anyone can be targeted, and anyone can be tricked.”
There are 2 key ways to do this:
- Report any scams you see
- Talk about your experiences
Read more about How to protect others from scams
The benefits system has come under huge pressure over the past year, with the total number of people claiming Universal Credit doubling since March 2020 to reach 6 million.
In response to the challenges posed by the pandemic, the DWP made various changes to disability benefits, including the automatic extension of some benefit awards, and replacing face-to-face assessments with remote assessments (which have mostly been delivered by telephone).
With face-to-face assessments resuming in June, Citizens Advice has spoken to clients and advisers about what the changes have meant for disabled people.
- Remote assessments have worked for some but have also been challenging for others
- There’ve been long delays with the Work Capability Assessment
- Decisions following initial assessments are often wrong
Support for private renters
In the Queen’s speech in May 2021, the Government committed to a White Paper on renters’ rights. This is good because after a rollercoaster year for renters, its clear that the private rented sector is in need of reform.
Citizens Advice research has shown that private renters have little power over their homes:
- Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions lead to insecurity and retaliatory evictions
- 1 in 4 properties don’t meet the Decent Homes Standard
- Tenants lack the power to enforce their rights
Citizens Advice is calling for:
- A ban on no fault evictions
- Introduction of longer, more secure tenancies
- Improved regulation and oversight of the private rented sector
Read the blog on how these policies could repair the market
Protecting energy consumers in the transition to net zero
In April 2021, the government announced its plan to cut emissions 78% by 2035 in the transition to a net zero economy in the UK. This move to net zero was always going to require significant changes in the way we use energy and it’s likely many of those decisions will be made at a local level. In new research, Citizens Advice looked into the different local plans and strategies to deliver net zero at a local level and found there’s an urgent need for national coordination and support to avoid a postcode lottery for energy consumers. Without national direction, some people may end up paying more or missing out on programmes to improve their homes solely because of where they live.
Read our latest blog, ‘Are we heading toward a postcode lottery for energy consumers?’.
Buy Now Pay Later
Citizens Advice estimates that 14 million people in the UK have used a buy now pay later (BNPL) product in the last year.
BNPL is a financial product that lets people split or delay payments to make them more manageable in the short-term. Whilst this is helpful for some, as a credit product it is inherently risky.
The customer journey should, therefore, be designed with care to protect people from harm. However, our research suggests the current customer journey lacks the information, affordability checks and care necessary to stop people falling into debt.
National research finds that of people who’ve used BNPL in the last 12 months:
- 26% have regretted using a BNPL product
- 39% used it without realising
- 42% didn’t fully understand at least one part of what they were signing up for
- 41% have struggled with making a repayment
Upcoming regulation of these products by the FCA must focus on 4 themes to address this: product design, information and understanding, affordability, and fair and consistent treatment of people in financial difficulty.
Read the full report Buy Now…Pain Later?
The loyalty penalty
In 2018, Citizens Advice submitted a super-complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) about the loyalty penalty. Since then, regulators have made good progress to prevent loyal customers being exploited in some markets. But in other markets, there is much more to do.
In the mortgage market, we are concerned that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have not set out any concrete proposals to prevent households on the Standard Variable Rate (SVR) paying the loyalty penalty.
In the mobile market, Ofcom have come to voluntary arrangements with some providers to remove or reduce the loyalty penalty paid by bundled contract customers. But some providers continue to charge customers for a handset they have already paid off.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on household finances. As government and regulator support schemes come to an end, many will struggle with the long-term impact of lost income and debts built up over the last year. They should not face the loyalty penalty on top of this.
We want to see mobile providers and the FCA take concrete, enforceable action now, to finish the job on the loyalty penalty.
Read the full report Finishing the job on the loyalty penalty