National Hate Crime Awareness Week

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This week is National Hate Crime Awareness Week

Spread love not hate is the message being spread this week across North Wales.

Communities in North Wales need to come together to tackle all forms of hate crime, as part of National Hate Crime Awareness Week which begins on 13th October 2018. Gwynedd Citizens Advice will be promoting ways on how to report Hate Crime by talking to groups in the community.

Hate Crime is on the rise and needs to be stopped. Crimes committed against someone because of their age, religion, gender identity, disability and sexual orientation are all Hate Crimes. It is important people can identify what a Hate Crime is and how to report it so that it can be stopped.

Gwynedd Citizens Advice can assist with helping people report Hate Crimes and help with identifying what Hate Crime is.

Tal Michael, CEO of Gwynedd Citizens Advice said:

‘If you witness any Hate Crime please report it. It is vital that Hate Crimes are reported to put an end to Hate Crime. North Wales is a place open for everyone no matter who they are and where they come from. This campaign is a fabulous opportunity to promote how Hate Crime can be reported and most importantly identifying when Hate Crime happens’

Hate Crime can also be reported to Stop Hate UK

Phone: 0800 138 1625 
Text: 07717 989 025 
Email: [email protected]
Web Chat: www.stophateuk.org/talk
Text Relay, for the deaf and hearing / speech impaired callers: 18001 0800 138 1625

PIP problems top the list of benefit issues reported to Local Citizens Advice

“Don’t struggle in silence”, says local Citizens Advice in North Wales

Our network of local Citizens Advice in North Wales helped over 4,400 people with problems related to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) last year.

PIP is a benefit that helps people to meet the extra costs of being disabled or having a long term health condition. For example it allows them to employ a carer who can help them get washed and dressed in the mornings, or to have a mobility scooter so they can travel to work.

Most people who contacted us across North Wales about PIP wanted help to:

● Make a claim or check their eligibility
● Challenge the outcome of their assessment decision
● Take their appeal to tribunal

In one example, Citizens Advice helped a man with multiple long-term health conditions who after moving from DLA to PIP, was receiving less benefit. He contacted the charity for assistance with a PIP appeal where it was also worked out he was entitled to Pension Credit. Citizens Advice helped him make the claim which helped to ease the burden of the reduction in the disability benefit.

As detailed in the report, in total last year, Citizens Advice Wales helped more than 100,000 people resolve their problems. PIP problems were the most common advice issue for the charity with 17,000 people seeking its help.

The top three issues reported to local Citizens Advice in North Wales in 2017/18 were:

1. Benefits and tax credits – 14,854
2. Debt – 7,261
3. Employment – 3,385

Fran Targett, Director of Citizens Advice Cymru, said:

“No one else sees so many people with so many different kinds of problems and that gives us unique insight into the challenges people are facing today.”

“A wrong PIP assessment decision can lead to people missing out on the everyday support they need. The daily reality of living with a disability can often be overlooked during the PIP assessment so it’s important that people know they can try to overturn this decision by asking for a reconsideration or appealing their case at tribunal.”

“Don’t struggle in silence. The Welsh Government currently funds quality-assured, specialist welfare benefit advice across Wales and we’re here to help.”

“Anyone who wants to make a PIP appeal, or has a more general query about the benefit, should contact their local Citizens Advice to understand their next steps.”

Background

Our network of Local Citizens Advice in North Wales cover the local authority areas of Ynys Môn, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham.

The charities run face-to-face sessions, as well as a phone helpline to make it easier for people to access its free and impartial advice service.

Anyone in Gwynedd requiring advice or support can contact the local Adviceline on 0345 450 3064.

It is also possible to get help online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk or find their local Citizens Advice office.

There is also a dedicated phone line for consumer issues on 03454 04 05 06. For Welsh speaking advisers dial 03454 04 05 05.

Ten top tips to avoid a Christmas debt hangover

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Christmas is a time of giving, but you don’t want to give yourself a headache in the New Year with bills and debts you can’t afford. It’s all too easy to overspend – there are tempting offers and pressures to buy, but you must decide how much you can afford before you start spending. Planning, budgeting and organisation are key to avoid getting into debt at Christmas and beyond. If your spending runs out of control, you can soon find that debt is not only a problem at Christmas, but can become a way of life. If you do get into difficulties, get advice as soon as you can by calling Gwynedd Citizens Advice on 0345 450 3064, attending a drop in, completing an Enquiry Form (for Gwynedd Residents) or visiting the Citizens Advice website

Here are a few tips to avoid getting into debt;

1. Plan early for Christmas

Be realistic and budget accordingly. Work out how much you are going to spend on each person – and stick to it. Manage expectations as to what you or Santa can give.

2. Don’t forget the everyday bills

Remember that rent, the mortgage, utility bills, food bills and other existing debts still have to be paid – and the consequences can be severe if they’re not. Even though it’s Christmas, get your priorities right.

3. Don’t bank on an overdraft

If you do need more money, don’t just run up an overdraft without talking to your bank first – it will work out much more expensive.

4. Keep things simple

If you can afford to pay for your goods outright by cash, cheque, or debit card, don’t be persuaded to take out extended credit agreements unless they really do work out cheaper.

5. Shop around

Try as many different places as possible to find the best price. Buy what you want and not what other people say you need. Be wary of extended warranties; the cost of a repair could be less than the cost of the warranty.

6. Buy safe to be safe

Whatever the deal, whatever the temptation, don’t buy from unauthorised traders and don’t borrow from unauthorised lenders. The initial savings and convenience may prove to be a false economy.

7. Read the small print

Check for hidden extras in any credit agreement. Work out the total amount payable. Ensure that the monthly installments are within your budget before signing. Interest free credit can seem attractive, but if you don’t pay on time, or miss a payment, you could have to pay a lot more.

8. Do your own credit checks

If you are going to use a credit card, shop around and compare terms. Some cards charge high interest rates, but provide interest free periods or discounts. Budget for all these costs and put the payment dates in your diary.

9. Be organised

There’s a lot to remember at Christmas. If you’ve borrowed money don’t forget that it won’t be long before you have to make a payment. Make sure you pay on time, even if it is only the minimum, or you will be faced with additional charges.

10. Start planning and saving for next Christmas

Once Christmas is over, it’s worth looking at what you did well and what you didn’t. Learn from your mistakes and start planning how you will do things differently next year. This might also be a good time to start saving for next Christmas.

Aims and objectives

The aims of the Citizens Advice service are:

• To ensure that individuals do not suffer through lack of knowledge of their rights and responsibilities, or of the services available to them, or through an inability to express their needs effectively.

And equally:

• To exercise a responsible influence on the development of social policies and services both, locally and nationally.

By providing an advice service, we deal with clients’ problems on an individual, day-to-day basis feeding back information to the bodies responsible for policy making. We endeavour to prevent problems from recurring and similar problems from arising.

We must comply with the association’s conditions of membership, which includes 12 principles. The main principles are:

A free service – We provide information, advice and assistance (including representation) free of charge. It does not withhold its services from any client seeking help because they are believed to be able to pay for help from an alternative source. The service is advertised to the public as being free of charge to ensure that members of the public are not discouraged from taking advantage of the service for fear of incurring expense.

Confidentiality – We provide confidentiality to clients. Nothing learned from clients, including the fact of their visit, will be passed on to anyone outside the service without express permission of the client. Although it is a function of the service to exercise a responsible influence on the development of social policies concerning matters which have been brought to light in the course of assisting clients, no details will be made public which might enable clients to be identified without their express consent.

Independent – The service provided by us is completely independent. The policies and practices of the service are decided solely by the member bureaux. No other individual or agency, even if they are giving financial support or other aid to the bureau, will influence the decision making process of the bureau.

Impartiality – The service provided by us is impartial, it is open to all, and is regardless of any subjective opinion as to whether or not the client is deserving. Our advisers are trained to provide information solely on the basis of its potential usefulness to the client, i.e. information will not be selected to conform to any particular point of view. Representations made on behalf of clients will faithfully attempt to express the client’s personal intentions and points of view.

The other principles are:

• accessibility
• effectiveness
• community accountability
• client’s right to decide
• a voluntary service
• empowerment
• information retrieval
• a generalist service

Business and Development Plan 2019–2022

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Executive Summary

“We give people the knowledge and confidence they need to find their way forward – whoever they are and whatever their problem. We’ll increase the impact we have on people’s lives by transforming the way we do things – while always staying true to our core purpose.”

This is a national objective which we share. To achieve it we intend to develop our service over the next three years as follows:

Advice

The aspiration across England & Wales is that over the next three years “We’ll radically improve the experience people have when they come to us for help, so everyone leaves with the knowledge and confidence they need to find a way forward.” We are determined to play our part in this.

Much of our advice is delivered by volunteers – a process which benefits volunteers as well as clients. We will seek to recruit and train more volunteers, recognising that for some the skills acquired will help them gain employment. We will develop the way in which we recruit and train to enable a wider range of individuals to contribute in a way which works for them.

We will also continue to seek funding to maintain a strong team of caseworkers to help with more complex problems. We will put clients at the heart of everything we do, securing funding to give them the help they need in the way in which they want to access it, whether that is face to face, over the phone or digitally. We will ensure that our advice is quality assured and of a consistently high standard. We will continue to provide services from our four principal sites plus outreach in the areas of greatest need.

Advocacy

We’ll be a stronger voice on the issues that matter most to the people who come to us for help. We will do this by undertaking a range of centrally co-ordinated campaigns based on evidence and research from local and national advice. We will seek to improve the way in which this is communicated and provide opportunities for clients and supporters to get involved.

Technology

We’ll use technology to enable a great experience for the people who come to us for help, while freeing up resources that will allow us to meet more demand. In particular we will seek opportunities to assist local people with using internet technologies, in particular with the introduction of Universal Credit. We will continue to support Citizens Advice to ensure that information is available online in Welsh and that clients can receive an interactive bilingual service.

We will review the technology that we use locally to support our services with the aim of improving the service while reducing the cost. This will include looking at ways to make it easier for clients to book appointments.

Sustainability

We’ll secure our future as a service through a more collaborative, proactive, and competitive approach to fundraising. This will include developing publicity to raise charitable donations and awareness of our services. Our financial planning will be based on working with the Citizens Advice network across North Wales and with other voluntary organisations to minimise the cost of administration including premises costs and effective management of risks.

Culture

We’ll be a collaborative, inventive and high-performing service that promotes equality, diversity and inclusion, and challenges discrimination. Our people are at the heart of what we do and we are determined to ensure that everyone has what they need to be effective and is fully involved in delivering a successful service.

To read the full plan click here.

Collecting data on protected characteristics

The following information has been provided by Citizens Advice England & Wales…

Collecting diversity information about our workforce and clients is a core activity for local and national Citizens Advice. This data, on age, ethnicity, gender and disability, has proved invaluable in practically every area of our work. It underpins our ability to speak with authority for those who need and want us to advocate on their behalf.

Being able to call on this data demonstrates that we are an inclusive service that embraces diversity, champions equality and challenges discrimination, values which underpin our local and the national equality and diversity strategy, Stand Up for Equality (and our local CAB Gwynedd Equality Policy).

However, there are gaps in what we are collecting which we need to address to ensure that we have more comprehensive picture of our workforce and clients. As part of this initiative we are asking centres, on a voluntary basis to collect information from their workforce on sexual orientation and religion or belief.

Why has this change been introduced?

Having collected data across the service for many years on ethnicity, disability, age and gender we have been able to:

  • Review and plan our services
  • Maintain our funding and reputation
  • Increase our influence on research and campaigns, and
  • Measure our progress in equality and diversity
  • Identify any trends in our staff and volunteer base

It is important for us, as a matter of good practice, to maintain our present monitoring by updating our records of sexual orientation and religious or other beliefs of staff, volunteers and trustees as well as clients.

The success of this initiative will depend upon staff, volunteers and trustees understanding the importance of providing their own equality data and of collecting it from clients, as well as its role in achieving the service’s equality objectives.

There is more detailed guidance available on BMIS which can also be used to help advisors ask clients for this information. Also Stonewall has produced a helpful summary guide (fersiwn Cymraeg ar gael yma).

Beware of Debt Advice Scams!

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Scam callers claiming to be part of Citizens Advice have been offering debt advice by telephone, while requesting personal details and financial information.

Citizens Advice never cold call, and never ask for bank details.

For advice with debt or any other issues, or to report scams, call our Adviceline on 03444 77 20 20

A bilingual poster warning of this scam is available here.