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Emergency help is now a 'weak and tangled web'

12 March 2014

Citizens Advice has warned that help for people struggling to put food on the table is now a "weak and tangled web" as a result of Government reforms to emergency financial assistance.

Following reports today that official advice to Jobcentre staff from ministers includes directing people in need to foodbanks, Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

"People who need emergency help often face a grim choice between a payday loan, a foodbank or a loan shark. The safety net supposed to stop people going hungry is now a weak and tangled web which is failing to catch the people who need help. With Crisis Loans scrapped, many people are now being pushed from pillar to post because of a confused process of emergency support which is simply not working. Too often, people struggling to put food on the table are not told what help is available and don’t know whether they should contact their local council, jobcentre or CAB for emergency help.

"The combined impact of recession and the upheaval caused by welfare reforms is taking its toll and the need for emergency help with food has rocketed. Officials often send people to the local Citizens Advice Bureau for a food voucher, rather than directing them to official emergency assistance. In the past year, Citizens Advice Bureaux have given out an estimated 100,000 emergency food vouchers with 16 per cent needed because of problems with the Government’s harsh new sanctions regime.

"The buck stops with Government. The only thing that matters is that people can eat and get by. At the moment a poorly-funded, unclear and confusing process is making it impossible for many people to get help to feed themselves and their family. Support for people in desperate need of food or emergency financial assistance because of official errors or a financial shock must be clearly and quickly available."


Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.