CITIZENS Advice is continuing to run two sessions a week in Lyme Regis which anyone is welcome to attend, even if they do not have an appointment.
These are held on Mondays between 10am and 12noon at the medical centre in Uplyme Road, DT7 3LS, and on Wednesdays from 10am to 3pm at St Michael’s Business Centre, DT7 3DB, in the centre of the town. The advice that is provided is always free, confidential and impartial.
Advice sessions are also held every weekday between 10am and 3pm at the offices of Citizens Advice in South Street, Bridport, DT6 3NY. There is in addition the facility to contact Citizens Advice by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 03442 451291, which will get you through to the Dorset AdviceLine.
Another part of the work undertaken by Citizens Advice is to campaign, both locally and nationally, to try and fix some of the underlying causes of common problems that people face and significant successes have been achieved in recent months.
One of these was persuading the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to take action to tackle the “loyalty penalty” suffered by millions of consumers.
Research undertaken by Citizens Advice in five major markets – home insurance, mortgages, savings, mobile and broadband – showed that around 80 per cent of people are paying significantly more if they remain with their existing supplier.
Andrea Coscelli, the chief executive of the CMA, said that it agreed with what Citizens Advice had found and that loyal customers were being charged more by the “inertia pricing” tactics operated by many companies. As a result it is recommending tough action to try and end this practice, including in some cases the introduction of price caps.
For some time Citizens Advice has been raising serious concerns about Universal Credit, the new benefits system which is replacing six means-tested benefits and merging them into one payment, and during January changes in the way it is to be implemented were announced by the Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Universal Credit has to work in practice as well as in theory. We welcome any move to make it a more flexible system that can be adapted to suit the way people live their lives.
“But to really get to grips with the problems of Universal Credit, the Government will need to go further. This means investing more in the benefit so people have enough to live on and do not have to wait five weeks for a first payment, while also making sure it is paid in a way that works for people’s individual circumstances.
“Universal Credit must work for everyone, which is why we will continue to monitor its impact on the people who come to us for help.”
Locally, Citizens Advice has pressed for continued funding of post offices because of worries about the impact, particularly on elderly people living in rural areas, of so many banks closing. Lyme Regis has been without a bank since the middle of 2017 and post offices can offer most customers access to banking services.
A survey has found that people in rural areas are more likely than those living in towns and cities to depend on their local post office and for many of them they are also important for other key services, such as collecting pensions and other state benefits and for obtaining their essential shopping.
For people living some distance from their nearest chemist, post offices are increasingly being used too as a collection point for prescriptions.