Our response to I, Daniel Blake
To Neil Carmichael (MP) and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (MP)
I, along with hundreds of other people in Stroud, went to see the film “I, Daniel Blake”, this week. The story the film tells is unfortunately not unfamiliar. At Citizens Advice in Stroud we come across many cases that are very similar to Daniel’s or Katie’s. Challenges with the work capability assessment, medical evidence, mandatory reconsiderations, appeals and sanctions are some of our biggest enquiry areas. The film is a powerful showcase of many aspects of the welfare system that is not working for people.
Although around 84% of people who use DWP services are satisfied with them, the people we help at Citizens Advice are more often than not part of the remaining 16%, or 3.5 million people, who are not satisfied.
Our clients are often people who don’t know where to start because they have extra support needs, who have got lost in a complex system and those for whom things have gone wrong. They are also people who have to navigate policies and processes that have been based on incorrect assumptions about how people live, are designed badly or are poorly implemented.
I urge you and your colleagues in Government to urgently address the following four key areas that would make sure a huge difference to so many people like Daniel Blake:
Improve the design of the support offered to those who are disabled or have a health condition including the work capability assessment
Improve the problems of poor administration and assessments of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and the subsequent cost and stress of appeals, most of which are successful.
Ensure that JobCentre work coach staff have the capacity and knowledge to provide the support needed to new Universal Credit claimant groups
Tackle the problem of insecure, low-paid employment and the difficulty many people have in obtaining secure jobs.
We are pleased that, following a meeting with Neil Carmichael, he has visited the Stroud Job Centre to better understand the points we raised and has committed to ensuring that our experiences are fed into the review the Government is currently undertaking of how disability benefits are administered and assessed.
Talk about Abuse
Last year 1 in 15 women, and 1 in 33 men experienced domestic abuse at the hands of their partner or former partner. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men have experienced this kind of abuse at some point in their adult lives.
As well as domestic abuse by an intimate partner or ex partner, there are other kinds of domestic abuse such as forced marriage, elder abuse and so called ‘honour’ based violence.
Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. That said, some groups are at greater risk of experiencing abuse, or may face additional barriers to seeking help.
In our society, because of gender inequality, women are much more likely to be victims of domestic abuse. Women are more than twice as likely as men to be victims of abuse, and are much more likely to experience repeated abuse.
Domestic abuse affects same sex couples and follows the same pattern of power and control as those in heterosexual relationships. Individuals that identify as transgender are at even higher risk of physical violence from their current or former partner.
Domestic abuse affects people from all ethnic groups. However, the form the abuse takes may vary between communities, and some people from black and minority ethnic groups, those with insecure immigration status, or without English as a first language, may face additional barriers in getting help.
Individuals with a physical disability, long-term illness, and/or with mental health problems are at greater risk of experiencing domestic abuse and face additional barriers to getting support.
What can you do to help?
You may be able to help a friend, family member or colleague who is experiencing abuse if you:
pay attention to changes in behaviour
start a conversation
listen, support and believe
suggest further help. For details of local support available contact he Gloucestershire Domestic Support Service.
Make sure you are Scam Aware
Cold calls, high-pressure sales tactics and automated voicemails asking for people’s details are just some of the tricks scammers are using to rob people of their hard earned money, says Citizens Advice Stroud and Cotswold Districts.
That's why, alongside Trading Standards, we recently promoted Scams Awareness Month to help stop people falling prey to scams by following a three-step rule: get advice; report it; and tell others about it.
Fraud victims pay a heavy price, losing billions of pounds every year. Scams targeting people by phone or post alone cost people in the UK an estimated UK £5 billion each year.
Informing the authorities and warning others is the only sure fire way of stopping scams, but people can be hesitant to even tell their friends and family.
Throughout July we highlighted how speaking up about scams is key to getting them closed down, and how to go about reporting suspected fraud to the authorities.
Scams come in a variety of guises and we see new ones emerging all the time. However, there are common hallmarks to every scam and we’re keen to show people what to look out for so they don’t fall prey to a fraudster.Scams are more common than most people realise and every day we hear from people who have lost money to a con-artist. Some scams are one-offs that persuade you to part with a lump sum, while others go after your personal details so they can access your money or copy your identity.
This is precisely what happened to Peter who came for advice recently about dealing with investments after the death of his daughter. Peter said “I was looking to make the most of my money to ensure a secure future for my grandchildren. A company with very persistent online advertising seemed to be offering a better return than standard investments at stock market rates. But, having invested a few hundred pounds to test it out, I felt very pressured to increase this to £3,000 which I couldn’t really afford.”
More sinister was a second incident which Peter believes is related. Peter explained “Soon after this, I received a phone call, supposedly from Microsoft Technical Department, saying I had a fraudulent license. I gave them permission to access my pc to check, where they were able to gain access to all my banking details which were still on the pc from my previous dealings with the investment company. I later discovered multiple payments for a new Microsoft Licenses had been taken from my bank account. I believe there was some connection between these two scams so that my bank details could be acquired.”
With the help of his bank, Peter was able to put a stop to the scam and, having reported the incident to the Scam Fraud Service, it is now being investigated.
Peter added “I am mathematically competent and have a science background so I understand risk, but I feel their advertising was designed to deceive and their sales approach was very hard to resist. If I can be caught like this, it can happen to anyone and so it’s vital that such scams are reported and investigated as this is the only way they will be closed down.”
You can help us tackle scams in our communities by getting to know the common signs, warning others, and reporting incidents to us so we can investigate. If you think you’ve been contacted by a con artist or have been the victim of scam, such as Peter was, you should seek advice and report it to the authorities by contacting the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06
Problems for disabled people claiming PIPs
In recent months our Benefits advisers have seen several clients whose situations reflect the picture painted in a recent Guardian article about the experiences of disabled people claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIP)..
When Pat was transferred from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to PIP she was told she didn't satisfy the stricter criteria an. We are helping her appeal and she is awaiting the outcome but, in the meantime, she has immediatley lost her mobility vehicle,can’t afford to buy new car. Pat lives in a rural area and is unable to use public transport due to her disability so she is effectivley stranded at home.
Peter, aged 67 and also living in a rural part of Stroud District, found himself in a similar situation but is in very poor health and had to take out a loan of £7,000 to buy an equivalent and relaible new car when lost his mobility vehicle.
We are working with our colleagues in Citizens Advice offices across Gloucestershire and Bristol to gather evidence of such difficulties that our clients are having with PIP and bringing these to the attention of DWP and our local politicians. If you have a siimilar story to share, we'd love to hear from you. You can email us via the contact us page on this website.
Make energy Better
2016 is a big year for energy consumers: not only are there changes afoot in the regulation and rules surrounding the energy sector, but the day to day of how we use and experience energy is also going to change significantly over the next few years.
From problems with back-billing to controversies over tariffs, we help people with hundreds of energy related issues a year. We want to make energy better; and coupled with the big changes happening this year in the sector, we are making sure that evidence from our clients’ experiences remains at the forefront of our work with stakeholders to improve the energy market.
Building on last year’s Fair Play for Prepay campaign and Big Energy Saving Week we are working to:
Raise awareness of the forthcoming smart meter roll-out.
Encourage clients and consumers to join Priority Service Registers.
Alert consumers to the practice of back-billing.
Encourage switching and better understanding of energy bills.
In addition here in the Stroud and Cotswold Districts, we are also part of a national Rural Energy Project. Rural communities can often be disproportionately affected by lack of access or infrastructure and this is no different when it comes to energy. Our communities often struggle with issues such as the lack of gas or electricity supply, severe fuel poverty and houses which are classed as the coldest and unhealthiest homes in the country. In order to address these challenges, we are working with local partners such as the local authorities and Severn Wye Energy Agency (SWEA) to address and raise awareness of rural energy issues.
If you'd like advice about how to save energy and save money, or to deal with energydebts get in touch and our Energy Champion will be able to help you.