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Citizens Advice Cymru submission to the ELGC Committee Inquiry into COVID-19

18 June 2020

Citizens Advice Cymru submission to the ELGC Committee Inquiry into COVID-19 [ 320 kb]

Citizens Advice Cymru has helped more than 20,000 people in Wales since the
lockdown began. Our network of 19 Local Citizens Advice offices across Wales is
delivering advice by phone and online during the lockdown. We’re continuing to
monitor data from our website and local advice services to understand people’s
concerns during this crisis.

No one knows yet what the full impact of the outbreak will be. However, we estimate
that 4 in 10 households (42%) in Wales have already lost income as a result of the
Coronavirus crisis. The consequences of the outbreak have been extensive and are
likely to be ongoing. Whilst national and local government has taken significant steps
to protect people from the impact, our advisers continue to help clients through a
time of considerable financial hardship and uncertainty.

It is vital that the Welsh Government uses its powers through the devolved
settlement to take timely and effective action. Our research has identified three key
areas within the portfolio of the committee where we believe more must be done to
ensure people do not fall into greater hardship.

1. Council tax debt: where people fall behind on council tax as a result of the
pandemic, they still face escalation of debts and strict enforcement. Local
authorities, with the support of the Welsh Government, must use their
powers to protect those struggling with payments in order to prevent
longer-term hardship.

2. Housing and rent arrears: current protection from evictions comes to an
end on 25th June, leaving households vulnerable if they have fallen behind
on rent during the lockdown period. Welsh Government must extend
current pauses on evictions to prevent a cliff-edge for tenants who have
fallen behind.

3. Tackling poverty: The extent of poverty in Wales has left many
households vulnerable in the face of the financial shock posed by the
Coronavirus outbreak. Welsh Government should act swiftly to ensure
people living in or at risk of falling into poverty are aware of support
available to them.