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Oxfordshire South & Vale Headlines – June 2018

Volunteers week June 1-7

We depend so much on our 150 volunteers.  Their dedication, generosity and hard work define the culture of the charity. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and take part in up to 14 months training. Many have been with us for several years; last June, 25 received long service awards (10 years +). Their deep knowledge and experience is one of the main reasons that so many people come to us when they have a problem they cannot sort out themselves (and nearly three quarters have their problems resolved ‘completely’ or ‘mostly’).

Our Thame Advice Centre – Market Square, Thame  

Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale is unusual in having 5 main Advice Centres and 3 outreach locations. This month, we focus on Thame.   

Our Thame Advice Centre is located in the distinctive, detached building on the edge of the Market Square.  Four part time paid staff and 29 volunteers work there. In addition, Lorna Barry from Horwood James Solicitors in Aylesbury provides a free family legal advice clinic once a month. The Pensionwise Service also advises clients at this Centre.

In 2017/18, the Thame Advice Centre advised 2,288 clients. 

Liz Johnson is the Advice Services Manager (ASM) for Thame Advice Centre. She is also the Deputy Director- Advice Services for all the OSAV CA Advice Centres.  Liz has been with Citizens Advice since 1990, initially as a volunteer adviser, then as a supervisor, a manager and Deputy Director since 2016. Liz has worked for Citizens Advice in Manchester, Liverpool, Cheshire as well as Oxfordshire. 

Criminals setting up fake Wi-Fi hot spots – Citizens Advice warning

Accessing free Wi-Fi can lead to people being targeted by criminals.  Typically, fraudsters broadcast a Wi-Fi connection with a vague name like “free_wifi” or “coffee shop_wifi”. If you connect to this, any data you send can be captured. 

To avoid being becoming a victim of this scam: 

  • Make sure you are connecting to a trusted Wi-Fi hot spot, operated by the venue you are in – ask staff if you are in doubt.
  • Do not use public Wi-Fi for online banking or anything else sensitive. Use your 3G, 4G or 5G connection instead (data sent is always encrypted). 
  • Use a VPN (virtual private network) when connecting to public Wi-Fi.

See  https://www.met.police.uk/globalassets/downloads/fraud/the-little-book-of-big-scams.pdf for more details about this and other frauds.

High-cost credit 
Citizens Advice has called for a total cost cap on doorstep loans and rent-to-own schemes.  Its research found that rent-to-own companies are charging interest rates of up to 1,557%.  Gillian Guy, Chief Executive at Citizens Advice, said: “a cap on these loans would save people £185m pa and stop debts spiraling out of control. The payday loan cap has been a remarkable success and led to a dramatic reduction in the number of people we see with problem debts from these loans’. She said: “People who use rent-to-own and doorstep loans are woefully unprotected from runaway costs.”

Loyalty penalty
Insurers have vowed to ‘stop punishing loyalty’. The Times reports on new rules for the insurance sector to help tackle the ‘loyalty penalty’. It says that a recent report by Citizens Advice found that customers who stayed loyal to their insurance providers could be paying almost £1,000 more a year than necessary.

And finally, an example of our work. Even winning a court case does not always resolve a problem….

Our client booked and paid £1,000 deposit to hire a vehicle. A few days later, he received a phone call saying the hire company was no longer going to rent the van to him as they had discovered he was a ‘traveller’. They did not return the deposit.

Our Adviser helped him write a letter to the company to request return of the deposit. This was unsuccessful. We then helped him take the company to court. Our client won the case and the Judge concluded he had been discriminated against. The hire company still did not return the deposit.

We then helped the client apply to the court to enforce the debt. The court bailiffs were unable to seize goods because the vehicles were registered in a different company name. We helped the client with a second claim. The client won the case but again bailiffs were unable to seize goods.  Our client has not decided whether to continue with further court action.

Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale is an independent charity that provides the local Citizens Advice service. Our 150 skilled volunteers work from locations and are supported by 9 FTE staff. We advise over 10,000 clients each year.

All our income is raised locally. We are very grateful to the two District Councils, the Town Councils, numerous Parish Councils and local charities for their continued support.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.radleyvillage.org.uk/oxfordshire-south-vale-headlines-june-2018/