Research and Campaigns
One of the twin aims of the Citizens Advice service is to campaign to improve the policies and practices which affect people's every day lives. Everyone who works for us contributes to this work, by identifying examples of unfairness and writing a report. These reports are dealt with by our team of dedicated volunteers who carry out further research and campaign to bring about improvements for the people of Eastbourne. Here are the top subjects we are working on:
Issues affecting people during the lockdown
Our research and campaigns volunteers all working from home and are continuing to identify the issues which are affecting people during the coronavirus lockdown. We have also held video meetings with our colleagues around East Sussex to compare notes and see how we can work together. We produce evidence reports on individual cases which are sent to Citizens Advice head office. they use this information to gather a picture of what people are experiencing and lobby for adjustments to the current support measures introduced by the government. Subjects we've identified include:
- confusion about what financial support can be accessed for people who've been laid-off , self employed people, local businesses
- gaps in the support available from government
- delays in processing benefits and long waiting times on government helplines
- concern about lack of support from the suggested options compared to previous income levels
- people being laid off or made redundant by their employer and not furloughed
- increased domestic violence
- illegal evictions
- scams by people offering support to the vulnerable
- problems in temporary accommodation
We are in regular contact with our local MP, the DWP and Eastbourne Borough Council, sharing the evidence we have and pushing for changes and improvements during this difficult time.
We are also considering what is to come when the current lockdown restrictions are lifted and the support measures end. This will feed into our conversations with local decision makers about how life will change when we return to "normality". Our concerns include increased debt issues, evictions, relationship and family breakdown, errors and complications in the benefit system, closure of local businesses and increased unemployment.
Parking problems at Eastbourne Railway Station
Over the past year we have received numerous enquiries from people who have received penalties when they have parked at Eastbourne Railway station. These come into two categories: blue badge holders having problems registering with the new system which was introduced by Indigo Parking in 2018 (and taken over by SABA in 2019) and the other group is people who have dropped someone off or picked someone up but then receive a penalty because they have supposedly parked there for a considerable length of time (sometimes a number of days. As well as a number of clients who have come to us for advice, we were aware of how often this came up in the letters page of Eastbourne Herald.
We sent our own letter to the Herald and asked people who'd been affected to contact us. We had quite a response from people who had been adversely affected, mostly older people and people with disabilities. We also received a letter from SABA, the company who run the parking system and have recently met with them to discuss the problems people have had and our recommendations.
The meeting was very positive, including an opportunity to have some cases reviewed. We also discussed the new online registration system for blue badge holders and we are told that this will receive a full launch soon. You can find our about the new system on the websites of SABA https://www.sabaparking.co.uk/blue-badge-portal or Govia Thameslink https://bluebadge.gtrcarparks.com/. The new scheme will allow blue badge holders to register their badge with their car and will last for one year.
We look forward to major improvements in the experience of those who use the car park and will continue to work with SABA to achieve this. If anyone has a problem using the car park or receives a penalty notice they think is unreasonable, please contact Citizens Advice Eastbourne for advice.
Temporary Accommodation Action Group
Building on our work to agree a Charter for the Standard of Temporary Accommodation with Eastbourne Borough Council we are pleased to be involved with the Temporary Accommodation Action Group (TAAG) which has been set up by Fulfilling Lives - a project providing help to homeless people with multiple and complex needs run by BHT.
Chief Officer, Alan Bruzon, is now chairing the TAAG which is an East Sussex based forum and has representatives of local Council Housing departments, providers of temporary accommodation, support agencies who provide help to the occupants and representatives of those who have lived or are currently living in temporary accommodation.
The aim of the TAAG is to develop and improve the standard of temporary accommodation and improve the outcomes for the people who are placed there, enabling them to find their own sustainable housing in future. Anyone interested in joining the TAAG should contact Alan Bruzon.
Pregnancy Discrimination - partnership with Wayfinder Woman Trust
CA Eastbourne is continuing to receive enquiries from women who have experienced discrimination at work when they tell their employer they are pregnant. In some cases this results in dismissal. The law is very clear about this, it is illegal to discriminate against women in this way and yet we continue to see examples. We produced a report on this in 2017.
One point is clear is that women need to know their rights at work and employers need to better understand their responsibilities. To help raise awareness of the subject we are working in partnership with Wayfinder Woman Trust to help spread the message across the town about where women can find information about their rights and how to ensure they receive them.
"It's just not fair" - East Sussex Sickness and Disability Benefits Report
Citizens Advice services in East Sussex have produced a report on the experiences of their clients claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) - benefits aimed at supporting those living with disabilities and long term health conditions
Our clients’ experience shows a system that is simply not fit for purpose - medical assessment processes that can humiliate and prejudge, delays of over a year in resolving claims and processes that seem almost designed to make applicants give up. In short when a claim for PIP or ESA goes wrong, the time it takes to resolve it and the impact on clients, who by virtue of their health or disability are in need of additional support, are more significant than for any other benefit.
Kay Birch, Chief Executive of Wealden Citizens Advice said:
“The treatment some of our clients have experienced is truly shocking. Medical assessors completing assessments before they have even seen the client; a housebound client relying on oxygen being expected to travel to his assessment centre on public transport carrying an oxygen cylinder with him; clients who have been in receipt of support for long term conditions for years suddenly cut off and the resulting appeals taking 15 to 16 months to be resolved. Without the ongoing support of local Food Banks, many of our clients would not have been able to cope.”
Download a copy of the report here "It's just not fair" (pdf)
Landlords & Benefits Survey
Many private landlords refuse to rent to people who claim benefits. We want to understand why this is and based on this see if there are ways that we can help, either by campaigning for improvements or by supporting their tenants.
We've set up an online survey and we invite any private landlord to complete it: Landlords & Benefits Survey (links to Google forms)
Outstanding Campaign Award winner
We are really pleased to have received Outstanding Campaign Award at this year's Citizens Advice Annual Conference.
We worked with Eastbourne Foodbank to improve the standard of temporary housing in the town and agreed a charter with Eastbourne Borough Council setting out the minimum standard of what will be provided. This has led to great improvements in temporary housing in the town.
Well done to everyone in the Eastbourne team!
Homelessness in Eastbourne Report
Over the past year the number of people sleeping rough in Eastbourne town centre has noticeably increased. The number of people contacting us for advice about issues which potentially lead to homelessness has also increased. At the same time we heard from many local people who were concerned about the problem and had various points of view as to the causes and the remedies, some compassionate and helpful others more critical and simply wanting the problem to go away.
We decided that in order to have any chance to improve things in the town we needed to have a better understanding of the problem - the causes, the reality of homelessness and solutions or barriers to getting back into housing. So we researched the subject to gather information from the numerous local agencies who work tirelessly all year round to support homeless people and those at risk. We asked for their views and recommendations and put them together as a subject for further campaign work - both with local and national issues.
You can download the report here:
Full Report pdf 3.2mb
Executive Summary pdf 1.6mb
Appendices pdf 2.2mb
Standards of temporary accommodation
Following numerous reports from our clients about appalling conditions in temporary accommodation, we joined up with Eastbourne Foodbank to gather more information. We received a lot of stories about infestations of bugs, mould, no bedding or furniture, threatening behaviour and intimidation, drug use, lack of support for vulnerable people. The problem was that, unlike other types of housing, temporary accommodation had no minimum legal standards as to what you could expect. We felt this was wrong and something needed to change.
We met with Eastbourne Borough Council and the local providers of temporary accommodation and have recently agreed a Charter for Temporary Housing which sets out the basic standard which can be expected from providers such as local B&Bs or hotels. This includes giving the Council a way to review individual premises and stop using places which don't provide the minimum requirements.
This work is a major improvement which has been achieved through partnership working and the work of our volunteer teams.
Sickness and Disability benefits - update February 2018
We continue to advise many people about problems with PIP and ESA. We've updated our report to give further examples, new recommendations and an update on recent events at Westminster on these subjects. Download a copy here:
Universal Credit Full Service went live in Eastbourne from October 2017. We worked with local agencies to collect information about where people can get help accessing computers and receive basic training and also where they can get help setting up a bank account. We produced a page to keep this information - Help with Universal Credit.
The Citizens Advice national campaigns team have continued to share our evidence with the government to influence changes and has achieved a number of successes to make Universal Credit better for people who receive it. These changes include:
- making the helpline free of charge
- removing the first 7 days waiting period when no benefit was paid
- Increased access to advance payments at the beginning of the claim
- and housing benefit will continue to be paid for two weeks at the beginning of the claim
You can read about these changes and the success positive outcomes of national campaigns work here:
We are continuing to see women who have been treated badly by their employers when they tell them they are pregnant. Typical examples include people on zero hours contracts who aren't offered any further work. In previous years this was rare for us, we would see about 1 case a year. In 2016-17 we saw 8 and we are continuing to see further examples which are becoming a worrying trend.
We set up an online survey to find out about women's experiences when pregnant at work and we received a number of responses. We have produced a report which explains the impact on the clients we have advised and makes recommendations on how to support women to receive their rights. We will continue to publicize this subject and raise awareness within the Eastbourne Community and Business sector. You can download a copy of our report here:This subject was recently covered on BBC Sussex Radio and you can listen to a clip here
Problems claiming sickness and disability benefits
There have been numerous clients who have contacted us for advice on claiming Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The problems have included long delays, administrative errors and poor quality decisions where people who have serious health problems are found fit for work. Advice agencies locally report that over 90% of cases they deal with are successful in over turning DWP decisions at appeal.
We held a public event which was attended by 40 people from Eastbourne who shared their stories and discussed what needs to change. You can read more about this here
This is a national problem and we continue to forward our evidence to Citizens Advice head office. They in turn, collate all the information they receive and campaign with government ministers to being about improvements. We have shared our findings with local MP, Caroline Ansell and now Stephen Lloyd and will continue to report our findings.
Following our public event we have produced report giving details of the cases we have helped people with and listing our campaign points on what needs to change. You can download a copy of the report here:
Zero Hours Contracts
Over the past year we have seen many clients who have come to us with employment problems which are related to zero hours contracts. We carried out a survey and have produced a report which you can read here.
Zero Hours Contract Report.pdf (538kb)
As a result of our findings, we have started a campaign to ask employers to stop using zero hours contracts routinely and to consider the alternatives first. This would give employees more rights and more security which would make them feel more valued at work and feel more confident to plan for the future.
We are asking all Eastbourne employers to sign our pledge, to stop using zero hours contracts as a norm. To sign our pledge click here.
If you would like to support our campaigns or are interested in finding out more about this work you can contact us via Adviceline 03444 111 444. You can read more about National Policy Research here and Campaigns here.