Research and Campaigns
One of the twin aims of the Citizens Advice service is to campaign to improve the policies and practices which affect people's everyday lives. Everyone who works for us contributes to this work, by identifying examples of unfairness and writing a report. These reports are dealt with by our team of dedicated volunteers who carry out further research and campaign to bring about improvements for the people of Lewes District. The top subjects we are working on right now are:
Settled and Safe – Renters’ Rights
The Department for Communities and Local Government issued a consultation paper in April 2017 on Banning letting agent fees paid by tenants. Having undertaken extensive research into letting agents’ fees during 2015 and 2016, we have responded to this consultation as part of the Citizens Advice East Sussex submission.
Lewes District Council has changed its Council Tax Reduction policy so that self-employed claimants are treated as having a minimum income floor equivalent to working full time at the National Living Wage. This means that self-employed people are not entitled to Council Tax Reduction notwithstanding the fact that their self-employed income may be significantly less than this. Our Bureau Evidence Forms show that, of the 8 Council Tax Reduction issues raised with the Bureaux so far this year, 6 related to self-employed clients affected by the minimum income floor. These clients now have to try to meet the costs of their full council tax liability without the income to do so. Clients are incurring costs and enforcement action as a result, suffering further financial hardship and undue stress.
We continue to work with East Sussex Trading Standards on scams awareness. Our volunteers accompany Trading Standards Officers on home visits across the county. It is an opportunity for our volunteers to learn more about different scams and their impact on victims and to give information to victims about the services offered by Citizens Advice.
Bureau Evidence Forms
When we see unfair practices, our specialist caseworkers and volunteers generate evidence forms, which provide qualitative data to Citizens Advice. This graph shows the unfair practices identified so far in 2017. 63% of these related to Benefits & Tax Credits. Within this, Council Tax Reduction was the most common issue, followed by Personal Independence Payment, Housing Benefit and Employment Support Allowance. The principal causes of problems were reported to be poor administration by the DWP and issues with Lewes District Council.
If you would like to support our campaigns or are interested in finding out more about this work you can contact us via Adviceline 03444 111 444. You can read more about National Policy Research here and Campaigns here.