Our advice work helps us identify policies and practices that cause people problems. Working with the national charity Citizens Advice we campaign for positive change and carry out research to get a better understanding of the problems people are experiencing.
We are currently campaigning on the following issues which affect a lot of people in Devon.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
PIP is extra money to help you with everyday life if you have an illness, disability or mental health condition. It is gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people aged 16 and over (but people who were 65 or over on 8 April 2013 will carry on getting DLA)
Many people are experiencing problems with the PIP assessment process and having to appeal to get the benefit they are entitled to. So we are carrying out research with the people we help to find out more about the problems they are experiencing and to campaign for improvements to the assessment process.
Universal Credit is being introduced across the UK. It will replace six benefits that people of working age can currently claim if their income and savings are below a certain level.
Universal Credit is due to be rolled out in Devon over the next few months, starting in Plymouth in October 2017. Initially only people making a new claim will go on to Universal Credit but the government plans to transfer everyone getting one or more of the six benefits it will replace on to Universal Credit by 2022. About a quarter of families in Devon will be affected by the introduction of Universal Credit.
There have been major problems with the roll out of Universal Credit so far. Many people have experienced long delays getting their first payment and have gone into debt as a result.
We are campaigning for changes to the way Universal Credit is delivered including reducing how long people have to wait for their first payment.
Parking fines in private car parks
We have dealt with many cases where people think they have been issued with a parking ticket unfairly. We are working with Trading Standards to ensure companies running private car parks comply with legislation and the standards set by their trading association. All private car parking companies need to be a member of either the British Parking Association or the International Parking Community in order to gain information from DVLA.
Illegal Money Lenders
After a number of successful prosecutions in Devon, we are exploring how we can work with the Police, Trading Standards and the Illegal Money Lending Team to identify and stop illegal money lending activity and raise awareness of safer and cheaper ways of borrowing money and getting credit.
To lend money lawfully, the lender has to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). You can find out whether a money lender is authorised by checking the register on the FCA website at www.fca.org.uk .
If you think a money lender is operating without being FCA authorised, you can speak in confidence to the Illegal Money Lending Hotline on 0300 555 2222. You can also email the Illegal Money Lending Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or text loan shark and your message to 60003.
If a loan shark threatens you or acts in a violent way, you should contact the police straightaway.