Annual Report 2004 - Problem solving for everyone in the community
Our campaigns for change this year have seen us working in partnership with others to make a difference to people’s lives:
MORI research commissioned by us, found that 23 per cent of people did not know how much money they owed. We worked with Experian to develop an on-line self-assessment survey that gave consumers feedback and advice on avoiding financial overcommitment.
Working with the Institute of Public Policy Research, our report Beyond bank accounts set out a forward looking agenda to help people on the lowest incomes gain access to banking and other financial services. The report was widely welcomed by policy makers and the banking industry.
Working with Transport 2000, our report Rural transport futures ( 270kb), used CAB evidence to make the case for better and more joined-up public transport services in rural areas.
Welfare benefits and tax credits
Citizens Advice Bureaux helped people with 1,723,000 problems with welfare benefits and tax credits.
CAB evidence led the Inland Revenue to pay ‘top-up’ hardship payments for tax credit claimants who experienced dramatic cuts in their income to recover overpayments quickly.
Select committees heard our views on a range of issues, including the introduction of direct payments and the impact of post office closures. We worked with the Department of Work and Pensions to produce information to help people open basic bank accounts.
CAB advisers provided the National Audit Office with evidence to review the handling of medical assessments for disability benefits.
CAB evidence led the Welsh Assembly to pass a motion requiring all Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in Wales to provide school uniform grants to minimum standards. The Department of Work and Pensions Select Committee recommended that all LEAs should have the funds to provide school uniform grants.
Citizens Advice Bureaux helped people with 1,444,000 consumer and debt problems. Of these, 1.1 million were debt related.
Our report In too deep was cited in the Government’s Consumer Credit White Paper (November 2003). Many CAB proposals are reflected in a new government wide Partnership Action Plan.
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) launched a national strategy for improving consumers’ financial capability. We called for this in our report Summing up in 2000.
CAB evidence has influenced the review of the Banking Code, the Treasury Select Committee inquiry into transparency of credit cards and Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigations into debt consolidation and debt collection procedures.
Citizens Advice was asked to support the new All Party Group on Debt and Personal Finance, launched in autumn 2003.
Our report on timeshare, Paradise lost, called for an overhaul of the law. Produced as part of our European Consumer Centre project, we pushed the European Commission to revise proposals for an Unfair Commercial Practices Directive to ensure that consumers will be protected by new legislation.
The OFT investigation into doorstep selling, prompted by a Citizens Advice Super Complaint in September 2002, agreed with our findings that people buying in their own home are too often subjected to high pressure selling. It also supported our call for changes in the law to give everyone buying at home cooling off rights.
Citizens Advice Bureaux helped people with 549,000 problems with housing.
Our report, Possession action, led the Housing Corporation to require social landlords to monitor the numbers of tenants evicted for rent arrears and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to develop proposals for new performance indicators on fair rent arrears recovery.
Citizens Advice Bureaux helped people with 510,000 problems with employment.
Our report Nowhere to turn described the increasingly widespread exploitation of migrant workers in the UK. Expecting fair pay and conditions, their dreams can all too easily become a nightmare of long hours, low pay and squalid accommodation. Citizens Advice was the only charity invited by the Portuguese Government to speak at an inter-governmental conference on Portuguese migrant workers' experiences. We helped the DTI and the Portuguese Government to prepare a leaflet on employment rights in the UK for Portuguese workers. We supported the Gangmasters (Licensing) Bill introduced by Jim Sheridan MP. This new law aims to protect people working for gangmasters in the rural economy from exploitation.
Citizens Advice Bureaux helped people with 433,000 problems with the legal system. Many of these reveal the increasing limitations of the civil legal aid system.
We launched a major programme of research and campaigning on access to justice involving bureaux throughout England and Wales. A series of reports highlighted how the Community Legal Service currently lets many people down. We suggested improvements, and submitted evidence to the Department for Constitutional Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the effectiveness of the civil legal aid system.
We continued to work with the Law Society to develop a Code of Practice and better standards for firms involved in sales of insurance and other services to people making personal injury claims.