‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ 40 years of Citizens Advice Bristol celebrated with debate at the Watershed

In June 2017, Citizens Advice Bristol hosted a debate between local political figures, activists and academics on the lack of affordable housing in Bristol.

Asher Craig, Labour Councillor and Deputy Mayor of Bristol; Peter Malpass, former Professor of Housing Policy at the University of the West of England (UWE); Mike Mills, Advice Service Manager at CHAS Housing Services; and Tom Renhard, an activist from the tenants’ union ACORN, made up our expert panel, and the event was broadcast live on Ujima Radio.

The debate was held to mark the 40th Anniversary of Citizens Advice in Bristol, after it first opened in 1977.

Over the years, housing problems have been one of the main issues with which people have come to Citizens Advice Bristol for help. A significant number of our 30,000 enquiries a year involve issues such as rent increases, poor quality accommodation, and eviction.

Although Bristol was named ‘Best Place to Live in Britain’ in March by the Sunday Times, the booming employment market and low crime rate mask deeper social issues. As businesses and people flock to the city, developers are targeting them by erecting expensive, luxury homes, most of which are entirely unaffordable to local residents. Low-cost, affordable housing is in short supply; vulnerable people seeking accommodation through Homechoice are often left waiting for months on end, if they succeed at all.

This event highlighted just one aspect of the work Citizens Advice do on the issues facing Bristol citizens.

“I’m very proud of the great work we’ve done over the last forty years, providing the people of Bristol with the advice they need and campaigning on issues to try and make lasting change”, commented Sue Evans, Citizens Advice Bristol Director. “This event marks a milestone in Citizen’s Advice Bristol’s history – and long may it continue!”


Homelessness in Bristol and how you can help

The reality of homelessness in the UK

Towards the end of 2016, Shelter announced that more than a quarter of a million people are homeless in England. A few months earlier, the Government reported 73,120 people were living in temporary accommodation, a figure that has almost doubled since 2010.

Bristol has the second-highest concentration of rough sleepers in the UK with the latest figures showing that there are almost 100 people sleeping rough in Bristol every night. In the last year alone, people sleeping rough across the country increased by 52%.

From these figures, it is clear that the number of people who are homeless is increasing at an alarming rate.

Sleeping on the streets can have drastic consequences for the mental and physical wellbeing of those living this way. The average age of death for rough sleepers is 47 for men, and 43 for women. Compared to the general population they are also: nine times more likely to commit suicide, three times more likely to die due to traffic accidents or falls and twice as likely to die due to infection. Almost half of Britain’s rough sleepers (45%) suffer from some form of mental health issue.

What to do if you see someone on the streets

If you see someone who you suspect is sleeping rough, you can inform StreetLink – this service alerts local authorities about the people sleeping rough in their area. You are asked to describe the location and appearance of someone you are concerned about and the service will try to connect them to local services and organisations to help them off the streets. They can be contacted on 0300 500 0914 or at http://www.streetlink.org.uk/.

If you are looking to get more involved, there are several charities in Bristol dedicated to combating homelessness, many of whom accept volunteers, and indeed are heavily reliant on volunteers to keep their services going.

St. Mungo’s Broadway provides outreach services, hostel accommodation, floating support and a range of health and recovery services to help homeless and vulnerable people in Bristol rebuild their lives. They have several centres but are mainly based at the Compass Centre on 1 Jamaica Street, BS2 8JP.

The Julian Trust Night Shelter, located in Little Bishop Street provides emergency accommodation and food for 18 people a day. It accepts donations, contributions of food and clothing and most importantly volunteers to help run the shelter.

Caring in Bristol is a small but effective charity that looks after homeless and vulnerable people in Bristol. One initiative you could get involved with is their Caring at Christmas shelter that provides homeless people with warm and safe accommodation in Bristol over the Christmas period. They also run Bristol Nightstop, which recruits hosts for vulnerable, young people.

Homelessness Awareness Week 2017

From Saturday 18th – 25th February 2017, the Bristol Homeless Forum will be running Homeless Awareness Week – a movement seeking to bring homelessness and the need for services to combat this to the forefront of public debate. Keep an eye out for lots of events that will be taking place throughout the week by visiting their website: http://bristolhf.org.uk/

Citizens Advice Bristol is open for free drop-in advice sessions between 9:30am – 1.00pm every weekday and is a useful place to seek advice on a variety of issues including homelessness and housing options.
People seeking advice can also call our national helpline on 03444 111 444 or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk , a comprehensive advice website with lots of information.

New report from Citizens Advice Bristol finds delivery drivers working under ‘bogus’ self-employment

None of the freedom, all of the risk

Citizens Advice Bristol has produced a new report after discovering employment agencies are contracting drivers to work exclusively for a national parcel delivery company under questionable self-employment contracts. The report highlights an increase in current and former Bristol delivery drivers being forced to work dangerously long hours, paying extortionate van hire and insurance fees and often suffer unpaid wages. More worryingly, other local Citizens Advice offices across England have been seeing similar cases.

The home delivery sector has grown hugely in recent years due to online shopping becoming the favoured means of purchase for consumers. Many delivery companies now only contract with drivers on a self-employed basis such that 9 out of 10 new jobs created between March and May this year were classified as self-employed.

Becoming self-employed can be an attractive opportunity; it offers greater freedoms such as the ability to choose your own hours, workload and negotiate your own wages,’’ explained Ben Crawford, Citizens Advice Researcher. ‘‘But for some, these apparent ‘freedoms’ are nothing more than illusions.’’


Far from being free to choose their own hours, drivers told us they frequently worked for over 14 hours a day, trying to deliver unmanageable quotas and often for less money than the National Living Wage after extortionate van hire and insurance fees. During peak times, drivers spoke of over 150 deliveries a day, leaving no time for breaks. In addition, drivers are demanded to be available from 7.30am, 5 days a week every week, unless two weeks’ notice is given. This is contrary to their supposed flexible self-employment status.

Read our full report – None of the freedom, all of the risk: Delivery drivers and bogus self employment in Bristol

An Inside Out special programme with be aired on Friday 11 November on BBC1 at 7:30pm. The programme will highlight more of the experiences and issues surrounding the parcel delivery sector.

Ill and disabled Bristol residents facing cuts to their disability benefits

Cuts to disability benefits are leaving  ill and disabled people struggling financially.

Bristol Citizens Advice – and our sister offices in South Gloucestershire, Bath & North East Somerset and the Forest of Dean and Stroud – have evidence which suggests disabled clients and those with long term health conditions are facing increasing cuts to the mobility component of their disability benefit called Personal Independent Payment (PIP).

PIP is intended to help with the extra costs caused by long-term ill health or disability. The amount received is based on a medical assessment of the individual’s condition. Before PIP was introduced in 2013, people with disabilities or long-term health issues received financial support in the form of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). However, as more and more DLA claimants are transferred to PIP, we are finding many ill and disabled people are suffering and struggling to cope.

These cuts are having a significant impact on the day-to-day lives of our clients,” explained Caroline Blake, a Macmillan Cancer caseworker based at Bristol Citizens Advice. “People transferring from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) onto Personal Independence Payments (PIP) can face losing over £35 per week and in some cases are being forced to return their specially adapted Motability cars which have been an essential lifeline in maintaining their independence and link with the outside world.”

If you have been affected by the transfer of disability benefits, please do not hesitate to contact us and get advice.

Citizens Advice Bristol debt adviser wins national award

Citizens Advice adviser, Andy Clark, named as Money Adviser of the Year 2016 at ceremony in Manchester.

Money adviser of the year 2016

Andy Clark from Bristol Citizens Advice (second from left) has been named as Money Adviser of the Year at the Institute of Money Advisers (IMA) Awards 2016 last week. Andy, who has been working with Citizens Advice for 7 years, was commended for his significant contribution to helping social housing tenants struggling with multiple debts. Andy is described by colleagues as a ‘role model’; a ‘fountain of knowledge’ whose ‘unending optimism and positive attitude are an inspiration.’

“Andy has an outstanding track record,” explained Andy Steward, Advice Services Manager at Bristol Citizens Advice, “Many of the clients he works with are facing eviction and have chronic debts and substantial financial instability but Andy has still been able to help these families get back on their feet.”

Social housing providers Curo and Sovereign Housing help to fund Andy’s role: “I have worked in Social Housing for 21 years and I can honestly say Andy is one of the best Citizens Advice advisors I have ever worked with,” explained Curo Account Manager Jane O’Donnell. “Andy’s intervention has prevented many Curo tenants from being taken to court or from losing their homes. He’s able to put people at ease and get them to open up while delivering often hard news about financial priorities.”

Andy is extremely pleased with his award: “I can’t believe I actually won, it is an honour to receive an award for something you really enjoy doing and for helping people out.”

The IMA Awards ceremony took place on 23 May at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. It was attended by senior representatives from the money advice sector. Robert Wilson, Chief Executive of the Institute of Money Advisers said “We celebrated our 10th year as the IMA at this year’s conference and we were delighted to have received more nominations than ever before for our Money Advice Awards competition. The judging panel was impressed by the outstanding work of the winners, each of whom is delivering high quality services aimed at improving the lives of people living on low incomes or struggling to cope with unmanageable debt.”

Last year Bristol Citizens Advice handled over 10,000 debt enquires, an increase of nearly 40% from the previous year. The service have also negotiated on £14.8million of previously unmanaged debt. The Bristol team of skilled debt advisers, supported by the Money Advice Service, helps people get their finances and lives back under control through a range of strategies including: negotiating with creditors, court advocacy and implementing insolvency options. Having the support of a qualified debt adviser can make a tremendous difference to an individual’s financial situation and their health and wellbeing. Good advice enables people to put money worries aside and get on with their lives.

If you think you might be in need of debt advice don’t hesitate to contact us.

Bristol residents encouraged to tell the full story

The England Illegal Money Lending Team are working with Citizens Advice Bristol to encourage those seeking debt advice to tell the full story. Often when individuals present themselves to seek debt advice they may not be willing, or feel able to open up about using loan sharks. It is always extremely important that when debts are being looked at those giving advice can see the full picture, otherwise any payment plans made will simply fail and the situation can deteriorate.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team and Citizens Advice are raising awareness across Bristol to encourage the reporting of loan sharks. From this Mon, 23 May, Citizens Advice Bristol will highlight the dangers of borrowing money from loan sharks across their drop-ins and outreaches.

Loan sharks operate illegally, without the correct permissions from the Financial Conduct Authority. These criminals usually appear friendly at first but quickly trap their borrowers into spiralling debt. As the debts can’t legally be enforced many lenders will resort to the most extreme and callous methods to enforce repayment.

Paperwork is rarely offered so victims are often in the dark as to how much they are actually paying. Exorbitant extra amounts and interest are added at random – the highest interest seen by an illegal lender was equivalent to 131,000% APR. In some cases the loan sharks have been known to take items as security including passports, driving licences and bank or post office cards with the PIN in order to withdraw directly from borrowers’ accounts.

The England Illegal Money Lending team will deliver a series of training events for money advice workers in Bristol on Wed 25th May. The training will give a better understanding of how loan sharks operate, what to look out for and give advisers the confidence to encourage clients to tell the full story when they are resolving their debt issues.

Matt Rogers from Citizens Advice Bristol said: “loan sharks are often embedded in the local community and hard to identify. If you have borrowed money from a ‘friend’ and are worried that you won’t be able to pay it back, come and talk to one of our money advisers”.

Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team said: “We are continuing to crack down on illegal money lending and bringing those who break the law to justice. It’s important to remember that loan sharks are only motivated by greed so should never be used. We would urge anyone with information about loan sharking or victims of loan sharks to contact the team on 0300 555 2222.”

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 336 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 217 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off over £63 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 27,000 people.

To report a loan shark:

Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text a report to 078600 22116
E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk
Private message www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

Spring into Summer Fayre, Knowle, Fri 6th May 2016

Money worries? Stressed about holidays? Need a spring in your step?

Join us at Bristol’s Spring into Summer Fayre for advice about internet coaching, budgeting, recipes, debt, finding work and training.

Broadwalk Shopping Centre, Knowle on Friday 6th May 10am – 2pm.

Spring into Summer Broadwalk A4 poster (3) email

Mayor & Bristol West MP officially open new Citizens Advice Bristol building in city centre

Since 1977 Bristol Citizens Advice has been offering free, independent and confidential advice to the people of Bristol and for much of that time the local charity have been seeking more suitable premises. Now; thanks to an innovative partnership between Trevor Osborne Properties and Bristol City Council; Citizens Advice have moved into new renovated premises (formerly the derelict Preview Bar) designed specifically to meet the needs of a busy advice service.

George Ferguson, Bristol’s elected Mayor, will be officially opening the building at 12.30 on Friday 8th April alongside Thangam Debbonaire, Bristol West MP, Mike Dixon, Assistant Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, and Trevor Osborne of Top Group , who has developed the new offices.

“It is fantastic that we have at last had the opportunity to move into modern accessible premises that will work well for our clients and our team and enable us to work in partnership with others ,” explained Sue Evans, Bristol Citizens Advice Director. “We can now develop our services during a time when demand for advice is constantly increasing. Last year alone we dealt with over 30,000 enquiries from the public and helped people access £6.5m in benefits. We anticipate no decrease in this level of demand for our service in the future and are pleased to be in a position to make a positive impact for the people of Bristol.”

building change

The result is 48 Fairfax Street, which has undergone a transformation from a derelict bar to a modern, fit for purpose office. Fairfax Street is a great location, in the city centre and accessible to many. A long lease secured with a Community Asset Transfer from Bristol City Council ensures security and affordability and enables Citizens Advice to work more effectively with partner agencies.

The Bristol City Council partnership with Top Group will ultimately lead to the restoration of two historic buildings in the old city; The Guildhall and the old Citizens Advice premises the former Bank of England. “We’ve been really pleased to be able to work with Citizens Advice,” explained Trevor Osborne, whose company developed Fairfax Street for the Bristol charity. “Their role in Bristol remains critical for many people and I’m pleased to have helped create a more appropriate building for their often difficult and sensitive work. The arrangements for the relocation wouldn’t have been possible without our partnership with Bristol City Council and the encouragement of the Mayor, George Ferguson. I wish Citizens Advice the greatest success in the continuance of their marvellous and attentive charitable work.”

You can watch the Made in Bristol TV feature on our the building opening here

Young people in crisis receive almost half a million pounds in Bristol

23.03.16 1625IP Lottery win in partnership with Avon and BristolBig Lottery Fund has awarded £499,781 to fund a specialist young people’s advice service across Bristol through a partnership between Avon and Bristol Law Centre, Citizens Advice Bristol and 1625 Independent People.

The five year project called “Ask Us”, led by Avon and Bristol Law Centre (ABLC), will be funded through the £30m Big Lottery Fund “Help Through Crisis”.

The project aims to help tackle poverty and homelessness, improve health & well being and help young people to take back control of their lives.

Research and consultation with young people shows a gap in them accessing crisis support and advice. ABLC, Citizens Advice Bristol (CAB) and 1625 Independent People (1625ip) are specialist advice & youth services in the city and will deliver the project from their city centre locations and provide outreach to youth bases and partner organisations in the most deprived areas of the city. The project will also train and support young people to become peer supporters and advisers.

Ask Us will employ three staff based at ABLC, CAB and 1625ip, providing hands-on advice and advocacy to 16-25 year olds to:

1. help them overcome crisis, including access to food, accommodation and support
2. gain the knowledge, information and confidence they need to take back control of their lives.

Young people will self-refer or be referred by partner organisations and crucially have one key-worker throughout to ensure continuity and build trust. Together they will identify actions and support them to access relevant services and provide ongoing post crisis support.

Youth Board

The project will develop a voice for young people in hardship in the city through a new cross sector “Youth Board” linked to the existing Youth Mayors, Youth Council & national youth forums.

Improving services for young people in Bristol

A wider aim of the project will be to strengthen how services in Bristol respond to young people’s needs by training local service providers in advice skills and the specific issues and barriers faced by young people. The project aims to work intensively with over 700 young people and will reach at least 2000 people through training delivery and capacity building support.

Clare Carter – Director ABLC said:
“We are delighted to be partnering with CAB and 1625ip to deliver effective support and advice to young people in crisis in Bristol. Working together we aim to bring about positive change for some of the most vulnerable people across the city”

Sue Evans – Director CAB said:
“We have had a long held aspiration to develop our services to meet the needs of young people, and this funding will enable us to develop a sustainable model of advice advocacy and support that will enable young people in Bristol to meet the challenges that they face and move forward in their lives. Citizens Advice Bristol are delighted to be working with 1625iP and ABLC on this project”

Jamie Gill – Partnership Director, 1625 Independent People said:
“The Big Lottery Fund has enabled our three organisations to create an exciting new specialist advice service so that young people in crisis in the city can overcome their immediate difficulties, and then with our support take back control of their lives so they can succeed into the future. Young people will play a central role in developing, delivering and evaluating the project so we can be confident that we are succeeding in making a real and lasting difference to the lives of young people in the city”.

New address

We are now open at our new premises at 48 Fairfax Street, BS1 3BL. All of our services are now being run from this address.

Our ‘drop-in’ advice service is available 9.30am – 1.00pm, Monday-Friday.

You can also ring the Citizens Advice line: 03444 111444.