Why do we do it?

We are fortunate to have a huge body of evidence on how legislation, commercial practices, policies and services affect the lives of local people. This evidence comes form the issues about which our clients seek advice. We could simply file it away as the subject matter of thousands of individual queries, but that would be a waste of this valuable resource.

Instead we use this evidence to demonstrate how policies, practices, new legislation and regulation (or the lack of it) affects people's lives. This evidence then allows us to influence a range of public and private bodies to improve their services, change how they operate and address the problems they cause.

By doing this we can prevent problems recurring (if we can spot a problem and suggest a fix) and help more people indirectly than we ever could simply through one to one advice.

How does it work in practice?

Some years ago Citizens Advice services and partners at Shelter noticed a significant number of private tenants were seeking advice because they were having difficulties getting their deposits returned when they moved out. Both organisations collected evidence from their offices around the country that demonstrated the extent and nature of the problem. They then presented this to government who agreed there was a problem, consulted on various solutions and eventually legislated to set up schemes to protect tenancy deposits.

As a result many thousands of private tenants have experienced fewer problems getting their deposits back at the end of a tenancy.

How about locally?

We work closely with a range of partners to provide them with feedback on how their services and how they could improve. We have worked very constructively with the city council to set up new ways of helping people with council tax arrears to prevent the use of bailiffs and set up sustainable payment arrangements.

We are working with a wide range of public and voluntary sector organisations to ensure proper support is in place for people when Universal Credit arrives in Stoke-on-Trent. All of this is based on our experience of similar issues and the needs of local people.

We have contributed to national campaigns, run by Citizens Advice and others. These include submitting evidence to the review of the regulation of Pay Day Loans, a problems that, at the time, affected virtually every person who came to see us about their debt problems. The problems we were seeing about the cost, availability, poor collection practices and use of continuous payment authority were the same issues highlighted by the regulators and on which they have taken action.

Campaigns as publicity

Some of our campaigns are aimed at publicising things that can make people's lives easier. For example we have taken part in national campaigns organised by Citizens Advice and OfGen to help people get the best deal on their energy.

What's current?

Current issues we are monitoring and collecting evidence on include:

  • The effects of welfare reforms - such as the under occupancy penalty (so-called 'bedroom tax') and of localising council tax support;
  • Sanctions applied to people receiving Job Seekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance;
  • The tendency for some employees to be wrongly classified as self-employed;
  • Lack of security in the private rented sector.

How can I help?

If you have been to see us for advice ask your adviser how you can get involved. This may be by writing to your MP or local councillor to highlight an issue.

If you would like to get more involved in this area of our work, then why not consider becoming a campaigning volunteer. For further details click here.

If you would like to find out more about Citizens Advice's national campaigning click here