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People face difficulties getting emergency help since welfare changes

12 January 2016

Confusion about where to turn for help means many people are struggling to get the welfare support they desperately need, says Citizens Advice.

The national charity today responded to separate reports on local welfare by the National Audit Office and the Work and Pensions Select Committee. In November 2015 Citizens Advice gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee about the safety net provided by local welfare.

Citizens Advice says that since discretionary welfare assistance, council tax support and discretionary housing payments were devolved to local government, many people find it difficult to get emergency support.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Changes to welfare provision mean many people don’t know where to turn when they are in urgent need of financial help.

“In some areas people face restrictions when applying for help and are sent from pillar to post, with no agency taking responsibility. The impact of this can mean people struggle to pay essential bills or are forced into debt.

“The national rollout of Universal Credit provides an important opportunity to improve access to welfare, but it is vital that people are given effective support to help them through the changes. Councils must also ensure that they are clear about what support they can offer residents and how people can access the local help they need.”

In the last year Citizens Advice helped people with:

  • Over 32,000 enquiries about social fund loans and localised social welfare schemes.

  • Nearly 17,000 enquiries about discretionary housing payments.

  • More than 100,000 queries about council tax reduction support.

Notes to editors

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, 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 get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit
  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. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.