Joint press release from Ipswich Citizens Advice and Ipswich Disabled Advice Bureau

Response to Budget announcements ‘Household finances mirror the instability of the wider economy’

Ipswich Citizens Advice and Ipswich Disabled Advice Bureau response to the Budget 2016 around Personal Independence Payments and the importance of more investment in front-line money and debt advice services.

We have seen an increase in demand for support with all aspects of access to disability benefits from completing applications to appealing decisions on Personal Independence Payments in Ipswich over the last 12 months. This benefit is designed to maximise people’s ability to play an active role in our society, whether to go out to work or to be able to stay in their own home.

Nicky Willshere, Manager Ipswich Citizens Advice said:

“Disabled people who rely on PIP for help to get dressed or use the toilet will be worried about the impact this Budget has on their ability to live an independent life. We have helped over a 1000 clients with benefits issues since April and almost 800 clients with debt worries.”

Pat Ramsey, Manager of Ipswich Disabled Advice Bureau said:

“We dealt with over 1400 enquiries about PIP issues and took on 718 PIP related cases in 2015. Issues related to the complexity of the whole process – getting together the information required to make the initial claim by phone, helping to complete the 36 page form, the large number of people asked to travel to Colchester, Braintree or Norwich for their medical assessment as the Ipswich facility has limited capacity, as well as representing those who feel their decision is wrong – with an 88 percent success rate. Government is planning to make this significant change before they have a full picture of the impact of PIP on the lives of people with disabilities, as most claimants of Disabled Living Allowance (DLA) have yet to be contacted about the compulsory change to PIP.”

“The planned changes to PIP will impact on all aspects of the lives of people with disabilities as they relate to help with their basic needs – getting in and out of bed, using the toilet, washing and dressing as well as preparing, and taking, food and drink. The changes fail to recognise the fact that disabled people research and purchase themselves to try to be as independent as possible. This news comes just a week after the announcement of parliamentary agreement to remove the Work Related Activity component from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The potential effect on the physical, mental and financial well-being of people with disabilities, their carers and families is enormous.”

On the commitment by the Government to invest more in front-line debt and money advice both charities welcomed this news. Both charities have specialist debt and income maximisation teams who can help clients manage their money, deal with their debts and ensure benefits are claimed.

Nicky Willshere, Manager Ipswich Citizens Advice said:

“Household finances mirror the instability of the wider economy. Increasing the personal tax allowance threshold to £11,500 from April 2017 and helping households to save are both very positive steps. We help with debt issues every working day and know there are many people struggling to balance the books. It is crucial that people can access free and impartial advice at every step of the way, not just when things start to go wrong. In these difficult times it is vital that everyone who needs it has access to professional, free, impartial advice. We can help to get effective financial guidance to people early which is key to improving household finances and economic security. The Government’s commitment to invest more in front-line debt and money advice is good news. It’s crucial financial help isn’t just available at crisis points, people should be able to access it at key moments in their lives, like when they move jobs or have a baby.”