► Find out how we helped “Penny”
“Penny”, over 60, with multiple illnesses and disabilities, living on her own and unlikely to be able to work again, phoned our Adviceline. Her income was £64/week. Despite being very sedentary, she told us she put the heat on as little as possible due to her lack of money. We could see immediately that she was highly likely to be eligible for disability and work capability benefits that could bring in an extra £150 to 200 each week, but that she needed expert support to help her make the claim. We estimated that this would constitute at least 5 hours work from an adviser, and were able to get her the help she needed.
► Find out how we helped “Milena”
“Milena” first approached us via a support worker in March 2020 about a concern of inappropriate lending. “Milena” is vulnerable and likely to be a victim of financial abuse. She was lent over £15,000 in 2019 despite having an income only from Universal Credit. We listened to the recording of the exchange with the lender, and found the bank's checks and procedures to be wholly inadequate. Following an approach to the Financial Ombudsman, the bank has now agreed to write off the debt. They didn't refund payments already made as they felt the client had had some benefit from the money. A great result brought about by the determination and persistence of the caseworker at Citizens Advice Oxford.
► Find out how we helped "Mary" and her family
“Mary”, aged 20, is a single mother with a 2-year old. She is a council tenant. “Mary” approached us to enquire about accessing a hardship voucher to support with food and fuel bills. After having had to reduce her hours at work when her son’s nursery closed to new starters during lockdown, her earnings almost halved. Her ex-partner is able to look after their son part-time. “Mary” is claiming universal credit (UC) and was in £4,000 debt with unpaid water, rent and Council Tax bills. After her debt repayments, there was no money left for food and other necessities. We put her into ‘Breathing Space’, a government scheme that provides people with up to two months to take stock and work out options without the pressure of debt repayments. Whilst in Breathing Space, we worked with “Mary” to get her finances back on track. We then referred her to the Citizens Advice Debt Relief Order Unit who processed a Debt Relief Order, which was successful. She is now without the burden of debt which, whilst comparatively low compared with other people we help, would have nonetheless taken her many years to repay and sapped her resources, both financial and emotional.
► Find out how we helped "Kumar"
“Kumar” was living in privately rented accommodation with his teenage son, and working at a large retail outlet. His English is not as good as he’d like, and he feels he’s being discriminated at work due to his ability to speak and understand the language. He also has panic attacks when stressed and had recently suffered one at work. His property is also poorly maintained and there is a leak in the roof. “Kumar” wanted to know what his rights were at work. He also mentioned that his property was also poorly maintained and there was a leak in the roof. Our adviser explained the scope of discrimination law at work and that it does not include the ability to speak a particular language. However, being treated fairly and with dignity at work should be the norm and Kumar’s staff handbook should explain how this is done in the workplace. A week or so later he had another panic attack at work and was off sick. We advised “Kumar” what he should expect management to do to accommodate his needs on his return. He was pleased to know that he should be able to return and be treated with a level of flexibility, which was the case. “Kumar” returned to work and the management team did a needs assessment with a plan to adapt his work to suit his needs. We arranged for “Kumar” to have a local mentor (through Refugee Resource) to help him talk through his issues. Alongside this we helped “Kumar” to draft a letter to his landlord.
► Find out how we helped "Priyanka"
“Priyanka”, a single mother with several school-age children, contacted for us for help when she had another baby. She had been working enough not to be affected by the benefit cap, which hits families with only two children in Oxford due to the high rents. Her baby was born with Covid and had serious long-term health issues, including needing to be tube-fed. “Priyanka” is now unable to work, so her benefits have been greatly reduced because of the benefit cap. Working to feed her family and pay her rent would mean having to leave her extremely ill baby in childcare. What a choice. Citizens Advice Oxford applied, on behalf of “Priyanka” for disability benefit for the baby. This required great expertise to evidence that “Priyanka’s” baby needed much more care than the average care needs of a new-born and that this care is within the rules for the benefit. After several hours of detailed work with “Priyanka”, we were successful and took further time to get her a carer's benefit too. These benefits meant that “Priyanka” was exempt from the benefit cap, and had a year to care for her sick baby without needing to return to work. This was life-changing for “Priyanka” but had required hours and hours of our expert time.
► Find out how we helped "David"
“David", a 64-year old, was referred to the Oxfordshire Specialist Advice Service (OSAS) soon after he came out of hospital following three weeks in the Intensive Care Unit. “David” is now housebound and struggling to make ends meet. Despite already having had an active Universal Credit claim, he was not receiving any income above the basic Housing Element. OSAS challenged the Job Centre directly about this - and it was found that some historic sanctions should have been removed some time ago. “David” received an immediate back payment of £1,500 directly into his account.
We are still looking to recover more money for “David” and are investigating whether the sanctions were correctly applied in the first place. Another back payment is likely. In the meantime, we are assisting him in being reassessed for the Disabled Element, and we would expect “David” to fit the Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity criteria, making him £342 better off each month. We also completed a PIP2 form over the telephone during lockdown, which involved lots of emails with the GP and suitable medical evidence being obtained and shared with the DWP. “David” should meet the threshold for the Enhanced Rate for both Mobility and Daily Living, making him £151 better off each week. We also successfully applied for a Charitable Grant of £200 for to assist “David” during the lockdown as he was with the bills, whilst awaiting the outcome of his PIP application. “David ”will be £11,956 better off each year; and also received £1,700 in one-off payments straight away.
► Find out how we helped "Angus" and his partner "John"
“Angus and John” had asked their letting agency to repair the leak in the roof but the agency had failed to do so. We advised “Angus and John” to contact the City Council’s Private Tenancy Safety Team and tell the team what they done so far to resolve the issue and what their letting agency had done. The Council got involved and the letting agency agreed a plan of action to repair the roof. The roof was due to be repaired within a month.