Areas of Advice
You can find information on the national Citizens Advice website, covering many different areas, including Debt, Benefits, Housing, Employment, etc. Just click the button below in the area you'd like to read more about.
It’s important that you get all the help that you’re entitled to. If you are working or unemployed, sick or disabled, a parent, a young person, an older person or a veteran, we can advise you on benefits and tax credits, as well as council tax and housing costs, and national insurance. If you are facing difficulties getting your benefits paid or have any other questions, we can help you find a way forward.
Client story - find out how we helped “Penny”“Penny”, over 60, with multiple illnesses and disabilities, living on her own and unlikely to be able to work again, phoned our Adviceline. Her income was £64/week. Despite being very sedentary, she told us she put the heat on as little as possible due to her lack of money. We could see immediately that she was highly likely to be eligible for disability and work capability benefits that could bring in an extra £150 to 200 each week, but that she needed expert support to help her make the claim. We estimated that this would constitute at least 5 hours work from an adviser, and were able to get her the help she needed.
Have you bought something and need to return it? Can’t go on the holiday you’ve booked for no fault of your own, but not sure whether you’re entitled to a refund? Received a poor service? Think you’ve been scammed? Our advisers are here to help you get through the small print to understand what your rights are.
Client story - find out how we helped “Milena”“Milena” first approached us via a support worker in March 2020 about a concern of inappropriate lending. “Milena” is vulnerable and likely to be a victim of financial abuse. She was lent over £15,000 in 2019 despite having an income only from Universal Credit. We listened to the recording of the exchange with the lender, and found the bank's checks and procedures to be wholly inadequate. Following an approach to the Financial Ombudsman, the bank has now agreed to write off the debt. They didn't refund payments already made as they felt the client had had some benefit from the money. A great result brought about by the determination and persistence of the caseworker at Citizens Advice Oxford.
Debt and money
Dealing with money issues can be daunting. It is easy to lose out or to get in debt if you are unsure how finances work, such as paying interest on a loan, or using buy now, pay later schemes. We can help you make the right choices, including how best to deal with your debt problems, avoid losing your home and get your finances into shape.
Client story - find out how we helped "Mary" and her family“Mary”, aged 20, is a single mother with a 2-year old. She is a council tenant. “Mary” approached us to enquire about accessing a hardship voucher to support with food and fuel bills. After having had to reduce her hours at work when her son’s nursery closed to new starters during lockdown, her earnings almost halved. Her ex-partner is able to look after their son part-time. “Mary” is claiming universal credit (UC) and was in £4,000 debt with unpaid water, rent and Council Tax bills. After her debt repayments, there was no money left for food and other necessities. We put her into ‘Breathing Space’, a government scheme that provides people with up to two months to take stock and work out options without the pressure of debt repayments. Whilst in Breathing Space, we worked with “Mary” to get her finances back on track. We then referred her to the Citizens Advice Debt Relief Order Unit who processed a Debt Relief Order, which was successful. She is now without the burden of debt which, whilst comparatively low compared with other people we help, would have nonetheless taken her many years to repay and sapped her resources, both financial and emotional.
Having a job is an essential part of most people’s lives. Whatever job you do, it is important to know what your rights are. If you’re facing issues with your employer, or are not sure that they are meeting all their obligations to you, ask us.
Client story - find out how we helped "Kumar"
“Kumar” was living in privately rented accommodation with his teenage son, and working at a large retail outlet. His English is not as good as he’d like, and he feels he’s being discriminated at work due to his ability to speak and understand the language. He also has panic attacks when stressed and had recently suffered one at work. His property is also poorly maintained and there is a leak in the roof. “Kumar” wanted to know what his rights were at work. He also mentioned that his property was also poorly maintained and there was a leak in the roof.
Our adviser explained the scope of discrimination law at work and that it does not include the ability to speak a particular language. However, being treated fairly and with dignity at work should be the norm and Kumar’s staff handbook should explain how this is done in the workplace. A week or so later he had another panic attack at work and was off sick. We advised “Kumar” what he should expect management to do to accommodate his needs on his return. He was pleased to know that he should be able to return and be treated with a level of flexibility, which was the case. “Kumar” returned to work and the management team did a needs assessment with a plan to adapt his work to suit his needs. We arranged for “Kumar” to have a local mentor (through Refugee Resource) to help him talk through his issues. Alongside this we helped “Kumar” to draft a letter to his landlord.
Relationship issues, child maintenance, death and wills, separation – these are all areas that can be extremely stressful, especially if you have not had to face them before and don’t know where to start. Our advisers are trained to provide impartial and confidential advice across the full range of issues that affect families, whether it be couples or children, financial matters or educational.
Client story - find out how we helped "Priyanka"“Priyanka”, a single mother with several school-age children, contacted for us for help when she had another baby. She had been working enough not to be affected by the benefit cap, which hits families with only two children in Oxford due to the high rents. Her baby was born with Covid and had serious long-term health issues, including needing to be tube-fed. “Priyanka” is now unable to work, so her benefits have been greatly reduced because of the benefit cap. Working to feed her family and pay her rent would mean having to leave her extremely ill baby in childcare. What a choice. Citizens Advice Oxford applied, on behalf of “Priyanka” for disability benefit for the baby. This required great expertise to evidence that “Priyanka’s” baby needed much more care than the average care needs of a new-born and that this care is within the rules for the benefit. After several hours of detailed work with “Priyanka”, we were successful and took further time to get her a carer's benefit too. These benefits meant that “Priyanka” was exempt from the benefit cap, and had a year to care for her sick baby without needing to return to work. This was life-changing for “Priyanka” but had required hours and hours of our expert time.
Navigating the NHS can be tricky with challenges ranging from trying to find out what you’re entitled to from the NHS to how to complain if the service is poor. Our advisers are trained to help you with these issues and if we can’t help, we can direct you to other specialist agencies who can provide you with help and more detailed information.
Client story - find out how we helped "David"
“David", a 64-year old, was referred to the Oxfordshire Specialist Advice Service (OSAS) soon after he came out of hospital following three weeks in the Intensive Care Unit. “David” is now housebound and struggling to make ends meet. Despite already having had an active Universal Credit claim, he was not receiving any income above the basic Housing Element. OSAS challenged the Job Centre directly about this - and it was found that some historic sanctions should have been removed some time ago. “David” received an immediate back payment of £1,500 directly into his account.
We are still looking to recover more money for “David” and are investigating whether the sanctions were correctly applied in the first place. Another back payment is likely. In the meantime, we are assisting him in being reassessed for the Disabled Element, and we would expect “David” to fit the Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity criteria, making him £342 better off each month. We also completed a PIP2 form over the telephone during lockdown, which involved lots of emails with the GP and suitable medical evidence being obtained and shared with the DWP. “David” should meet the threshold for the Enhanced Rate for both Mobility and Daily Living, making him £151 better off each week. We also successfully applied for a Charitable Grant of £200 for to assist “David” during the lockdown as he was with the bills, whilst awaiting the outcome of his PIP application. “David ”will be £11,956 better off each year; and also received £1,700 in one-off payments straight away.
Living in a city with some of the most expensive rentals and properties in the UK, housing is an issue for many people in Oxford. In particular, if you’re renting or living in council property, you need to know your rights and responsibilities. We can advise on handling problems with your landlord and help to avoid losing your home. Or if you’re paying a mortgage, you could find yourself threatened with eviction if you can’t cope with your mortgage payments. We can provide information on how to rent or buy a home, or just find somewhere to live.
Client story - find out how we helped "Angus" and his partner "John"“Angus and John” had asked their letting agency to repair the leak in the roof but the agency had failed to do so. We advised “Angus and John” to contact the City Council’s Private Tenancy Safety Team and tell the team what they done so far to resolve the issue and what their letting agency had done. The Council got involved and the letting agency agreed a plan of action to repair the roof. The roof was due to be repaired within a month.
Law and courts
You can find out more about your rights, as well as what to do if you face discrimination, need legal advice or have to go to court without a lawyer. We also work in partnership with a number of legal providers in Oxford, and may be able to refer you to them if we are unable to find a way forward for you without professional advice.