Universal Credit: Citizens Advice in Lancashire - the impact of Covid 19
Decision Maker: External Scrutiny Committee
Decision status: For Determination
Is Key decision?: No
A presentation from representatives of
Citizens Advice in Lancashire on the impact of Covid 19 and
The Chair welcomed to the meeting from Citizens Advice Rossendale and Hyndburn, Rachel Whippy, Chief Officer and Jenny Duthie, Universal Credit Help and Claim Best Practice Lead.
The committee was presented with an update on the impact of Covid 19 on the people of Lancashire and the issues they faced.
The following points were clarified:
· On whether there had been an increase in domestic abuse issues during the pandemic, it was reported that there had been 179 reported issues in 2019 and this had increased to 239 in 2020. Anecdotally Citizens Advice advisors were reporting an increase in the number of referrals for relationship issues and this was echoed nationally.
· Concerns were raised about loan shark activity. Members were informed that there was a government funded organisation for stopping loan sharks. Members were provided with a link to the 'Stop Loan Sharks' website: www.stoploansharks.co.uk . Stop Loan Sharks worked closely with Trading Standards. Credit Unions were also proactive in helping people get out of the grip of loan sharks. Solutions were available for people with debts under £20k were they could obtain a Debt Relief Order. It was stated that people should contact Citizens Advice for help in dealing with their debts and setting up dent management plans.
· On how the county council might help support residents, it was felt the community hubs established during the pandemic were a good example of local authorities, health and the voluntary sector working together in partnership and it was hoped this would continue. In terms of service delivery for Citizens Advice it was noted that whilst capacity was reserved for the most vulnerable in society and those with complex issues, their approach was to help enable people to support themselves by providing a wealth of information and resources through its website and training on how to use it.
· It was noted that the Citizens Advice did not work with trade unions but this could be an option.
· It was suggested that Lancashire County council could advertise for volunteers for the Citizens Advice.
· The Chair reminded the committee that a formal written response to its recommendations made in February 2020 was awaited from the Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing. It was felt that the committee should wait for the Cabinet Member's response before making recommendations.
1. The report be noted.
2. The External Scrutiny Committee awaits receipt of the formal written responses by the Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing before formulating any further recommendations.
Report author: Gary Halsall
Date of decision: 17/11/2020
Decided at meeting: 17/11/2020 - External Scrutiny Committee