Credit card det is the second most common debt problem brought to Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice helps with 14,000 credit card debt problems a month making it the second most common debt issue people seek advice on, the charity has revealed today.

The new figure is released as the Financial Conduct Authority announces the terms of reference for its study into the credit card market.  The national charity is calling on the FCA to make sure the market is working for consumers and that lenders behave responsibly when collecting debts.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice , said:

“Credit cards can leave people dependent on debt.  Borrowers who only pay off the minimum amount can find themselves in a never-ending cycle of borrowing which means their debt only gets bigger.  Evidence from Citizens Advice has found some people go onto face harsh debt collection practices, like the threat of bankruptcy, from their card providers.

“Paying for items using a credit card can help people manage unexpected expenses and provides extra protection if something goes wrong.  But sometimes people find they can’t keep up with repayments.  Citizens Advice helps with 14,000 credit card problems a month, making it is the second most common debt issue we deal with.  For people who seek help from us about serious debt problems, the average credit card debt is £6,000.

“With millions of pounds borrowed on credit cards each year this review by the FCA is important to make sure the market works for consumers and lenders are behaving responsibly when it comes to debt collection. The regulator needs to look at whether the checks for credit card applications are rigorous and don’t allow people to borrow money they can’t afford to repay.”

Public want urgent global action to tackle climate change

A new Populus survey reveals an appetite for action on climate change by the UK public.

It showed that 73% of people want world leaders to agree a global deal and 66% think action must happen now.

However, the survey also showed that just 40% of people recognise the potential impact of climate change on their lifestyle.

To demonstrate the scale of the expected impacts, the DECC is teaming up with a huge range of organisations and individuals, such as the UN, Microsoft and the Natural History Museum to bring the issue to life.

Liberal Democrat Minister for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey will answer questions on the DECC Twitter about the impact of climate change and the actions that can be taken.

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Ed said:

“The science is clear. Climate change poses great risks to health, global food security and economic development – and unchecked will change every part of our lives. Without urgent action nowhere on earth will be left untouched.

“We are at a global turning point – never before have so many countries made clear their determination to act to tackle climate change. Those governments are backed by a groundswell of people who want to see action in their own countries and around the world.”

Citizens Advice: Financial abuse is too often “invisible” in abusive relationships

A new report from Citizens Advicehas found that abusive partners are using money to control and trap their victims.  The research reveals perpetrators are leaving their partners without money, controlling their day-to-day spending and taking payday loans out in the victim’s name.

Citizens Advice’s pioneering new report, Controlling money, controlling lives, seeks to highlight how financial abuse often accompanies other forms of domestic abuse, such as physical violence.  It is published today to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November). The report is based on a survey of advisers and reports from people who sought Citizens Advice’s help about financial abuse.

Of the advisers who had helped someone with financial abuse:

  • Almost three-quarters had reported someone forced by their abuser to take out credit, such as a payday loan
  • 43 per cent had seen cases of the abuser stealing from the victim
  • Over half had reported perpetrators controlling access to the victim’s income, banking or savings
  • 77 per cent reported victims being left to pay joint bills alone, including council tax and fuel debt

The report finds that most financial abuse cases Citizens Advice helps with involve current or former partners of victims. Nine in ten victims of financial abuse who came to Citizens Advice for help this year were women.

The new research from the national charity suggests that control of someone’s finances can often be an overlooked element of abusive relationships. People whose partner or relative restricts their financial independence do not always recognise that they are a victim of domestic abuse and often do not report it to others.

Financial institutions often fail to acknowledge financial abuse when it is reported and by ignoring it make the situation more difficult for victims. The charity is calling for Government departments, local authorities, banks and creditors to be more aware of financial abuse and have better guidance for staff to help victims.

Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Advice, Gillian Guy, said:

“Financial abuse is an invisible crime in abusive relationships. Control over money is another weapon abusers use to hurt their victims.

“Recognising the abuse in a relationship is itself a tough challenge for victims. Getting out of an abusive relationship may be practically impossible for people whose abusers ensure they don’t have any access to money. Similarly the ties of joint finances or threat of severe debt is used by perpetrators to stop people cutting ties with their abuser.

“Authorities’ lack of awareness of financial abuse leaves victims at risk of further harm. The Government is right to have made tackling domestic abuse a top priority. Citizens Advice wants financial abuse to form part of this commitment. Ministers must ensure that abuse victims are able to get the support they need from legal aid and that family assistance like Child Benefit is not being misused by abusers. The FCA should look to provide guidance for banks and creditors dealing with financial abuse cases.”

A woman in her early twenties found her abusive ex-partner was continuing to take money out of their joint account, leaving her overdrawn. Even though she had taken out a legal injunction to stop her former partner contacting her, the bank told her that they would both need to be present for the account to be frozen.

Advisers reported that in some cases financial abuse victims were denied access to the legal aid they needed ensure the safety of them or their families.  One victim of financial abuse had her possessions destroyed by her husband and was also physically and emotionally abused. When she tried to get help from a solicitor she was told her case was not “extreme enough” to qualify for legal aid.

Without access to legal aid the costs of leaving abusive partners may be prohibitive to some victims, including those who have dependent children. Citizens Advice wants the Government to review the availability of legal aid in cases relating to financial abuse.

Nick Clegg announces mental health taskforce

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg announced that he will be establishing and chairing a new Mental Health Taskforce, which will include Cabinet Ministers from across the coalition.

The Liberal Democrats have been campaigning on mental health issues for many years, with a focus on bringing treatment for mental health problems in line with physical health and ending years of discrimination.

You can back thLib Dem campaign to help us stamp our mental health stigma here.

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In October this year, Nick Clegg announced a £120 million investment in mental health, which will include the introduction in April 2015 of the first ever waiting time standards for mental health in the NHS.

Nick said:

“Mental Health affects every aspect of our lives. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem and it costs the country more than £100 billion. This is too big an issue for the NHS to deal with alone.

“The whole of Government needs to combine its efforts and pool its resources to help the millions of people whose mental health condition is preventing them from getting on in life.

“For far too long mental health has been in the shadows and many people have suffered in silence as a result.

“It is time to turn a corner on outdated attitudes and bring mental health issues out into the open. It is time that the whole of society started providing the care and support to those with mental health conditions in the same way that they would to those with a physical condition.”

Mental health issues such as stress or depression are now the leading cause of illness in the workplace, with more than eleven million working days lost last year.

Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb is calling on big businesses to focus more on the mental well-being of their employees.

The taskforce will meet within days and urgently discuss how we can improve mental health services for young people, welfare and employment issues and how we can improve crisis care.re mental health problems ending up in police cells and prisons.

Humberside Fire and Rescue ask you to check on your neighbours

Check On Your Neighbour is an on going campaign where we ask residents to take ten minutes out of their day to check on an elderly neighbour or relative and carry out a few simple checks to help reduce risks of fire in their home. Particularly in the winter when the risk of fire can increase.

Through insight work, HFRS established the profile of people who were most at risk from having a fire in their home. Those most at risk tended to be elderly people who lived alone, often smokers or on medication and with some type of physical or mental impairment.

Allen Cunningham, Community Safety Manager for Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“Winter can be a difficult time for elderly residents as the cold weather sets in and keeping warm becomes a priority. Fire risk in the home can increase due to people smoking indoors to stay out of the cold and using open fires and electric or gas heaters become more frequent.

“There are quick checks people could carry out when visiting an elderly neighbour or relative that really could make a difference to someone’s safety this winter and I urge people to get involved.”

How you could help:

1. Offer to check that your neighbour’s smoke alarm is working – Push the button and make sure the alarm sounds.

2. If your neighbour smokes, remind them to never smoke in bed or when tired, to always ensure cigarettes are fully extinguished in a proper ashtray.

3. Remind your neighbour never to leave cooking unattended and ensure the cooker is turned off before leaving the house or going to bed. Having a timer is a good reminder to turn the cooker off once finished cooking.

4. If they use a portable heater, remind your neighbour not to sit too close as fabric can catch fire. Advise them to not to leave heaters turned on overnight. If they use an open fire, ensure they use a fire guard.

Allen continued:

“Obviously, it is important to remind people to remain vigilant and only open the door to people you know and trust. It doesn’t need to take long, but just a quick regular visit can help to ensure our elderly neighbours and relatives are safe.”

The cold weather increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, lung illnesses, flu and other diseases. It can also exacerbate the symptoms of respiratory conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder and Coronary Heart Disease.

As a result the Yorkshire & Humber Public Health Observatory states that there are 191 excess winter deaths per year in Hull. The risks are exacerbated for those people living alone who are over the age of 65.

There are approx. 36,000 people aged 65 and older living in Hull and a recent Public Health survey highlighted that 15% of over-65s in Hull not only live alone but are socially isolated.

If your relative or neighbour lives alone, make sure they are able to turn on their heating or have access to means of warming themselves such as a portable heater or blankets. Keeping warm is keeping healthy.

If you have concerns about a neighbour or relative and to find out if they are eligible for a free home safety visit, please call 0300 303 8242 or visit www.humbersidefire.gov.uk

Humberside Police support national campaign to make it harder for terrorists

Humberside Police is supporting a national police campaign, designed to make it harder for terrorists to attack the UK.

Monday 24 November sees the launch of National Counter Terrorism Awareness Week, which will run from November 24 until November 30. During this week, police and partner agencies will work together to deliver activity and events across the country, to increase vigilance amongst the general public, business and transport community.

Activity will focus on five key areas, where simple measures and an increased understanding could help to prevent an act of terrorism. Each day will feature a different theme: crowded places, transport hubs, preventing violent extremism, terrorist financing and the tools terrorists need to operate.

In Humberside, each theme will be supported by different engagement activity, ranging from security briefings for sports venues, retailers, leisure parks and transport operators, to the delivery of public advice in community venues, universities and shopping centres.

Targeted police operations will also take place at key sites across the force area in an effort to disrupt terrorist activity, or criminal efforts which may help to fund or support terrorist objectives.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Leaver said:

“In August the threat to the UK United Kingdom from International Terrorism was increased to Severe. While there is currently no specific intelligence of an attack on the UK, it is vital we ensure we are in the best possible position to prevent and detect any potential terrorist threats.

“Members of the public and the business community have a particularly important role to play went it comes to recognising suspicious activity and reporting it to police. Those who work in, or visit, crowded places are often best placed to recognise the early signs that something is wrong. We want them to know what to do if they suspect something is out of the ordinary and how they can help to protect themselves and others.

“By working together we can make it harder for terrorists to operate in the UK. Through increased awareness and vigilance we can reduce their opportunities and disrupt their activities to better protect our communities, our businesses and industry.”

If you suspect it, report it. Anyone with concerns about suspicious activity or behaviour is asked to contact the Confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321. In the case of an immediate threat, always dial 999.

Lib Dems declare Snoopers’ Charter dead and buried in this Parliament

The Liberal Democrats have welcomed Theresa May’s announcement that action to match IP addresses to individuals will be included in the upcoming package of counter terror measures.

The measure will help the police to identify individuals by matching them to the computers and mobile phones they are using.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called for action to match IP addresses when he blocked the illiberal Snoopers’ Charter – the Communications Data Bill – in April 2013. The Bill would have allowed security services to access records kept of every website you visit and who you communicate with on social media sites.

The inclusion of IP address matching in the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill shows that the much wider and disproportionate proposals in the Snoopers’ Charter will not be resurfacing under the Coalition Government.

The Liberal Democrats are in favour of action on IP address matching and have been since it was recommended by the Joint Committee that did the pre-legislative scrutiny on the Communications Data Bill. The committee said the proposals were the only part of that Bill that did not reduce civil liberties.

The Home Office had gone quiet on the issue of IP address matching until it resurfaced as a result of deeply misleading claims made in Theresa May’s Conference speech. May accused the Liberal Democrats of putting children’s lives at risk by blocking the Snoopers’ Charter, citing cases dropped by the National Crime Agency. In fact it was the failure to match IP addresses that led to the failure of those cases.

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said:

“It is good news that the Home Office has finally got round to producing proposals on this after being repeatedly asked by Nick Clegg. These can now be agreed and acted on in the upcoming Bill.

“This is exactly the kind of thing that we need to take action on, rather than proposing an unnecessary, unworkable and disproportionate Snooper’s Charter. There is absolutely no chance of that illiberal Bill coming back under the Coalition Government – it’s dead and buried.

“The issue of IP address matching only resurfaced as a result of deeply misleading claims made in Theresa May’s Conference speech. That is what has prompted the Home Office to stop sitting on their hands.

“This announcement is welcome news but comes after months of Conservative foot dragging. They always bang on about new security powers but have done nothing about IP addresses since we called for it in Spring 2013.”

Citizens Advice: Families uprooted on whims of private landlords

Half of people seeking help from Citizens Advice about being evicted from their privately rented property, despite being up to date with their rent, have dependent children, the charity reveals today.

New evidence from Citizens Advice finds families face an uncertain future in their homes. Some people are being evicted because the landlord wants to sell property, rents are hiked to unaffordable levels or they have challenged their landlord over the poor conditions.

Citizens Advice helped a woman and her daughter after they asked their landlord for repairs to their privately rented home, as they were getting electric shocks in the shower. An electrician told them it was not safe for them to live in the flat because there was an electric current running through it.  When the mother pursued the landlord to fix the problem he evicted them.

The new findings, due to be published on Wednesday, are from Citizens Advice latest Advice Trends report which tracks growing problems around renting privately and is based on data from July to September this year.  The publication finds:

          • 22,000 got help with private rented sector problem, six per cent more than in the same period last year:
          • 20 per cent more people got advice about eviction for problems other than arrears compared with the same period last year.
          • 2 in 5 people receiving advice on a private rented problem have dependent children.
          • 1 in 5 people seeking help from Citizens Advice for a problem with their private rented home is a lone parent

Citizens Advice is concerned that more people will face unfair treatment by landlords as the private rented sector continues to grow. The number of households renting their homes from private landlords has increased to almost five million.

Citizens Advice  wants protections for people renting from private landlords to be improved. On Friday 28 November the Tenancies Reform Bill will be debated in Parliament. If enacted the Private Members Bill would prevent such retaliatory evictions.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said:

“Family homes are vulnerable to the whims of landlords. Parents and children are being uprooted from their homes, through no fault of their own.  The knock-on effect means some families struggle to afford the costs of moving.  In some cases prices mean people have to leave their local community and lose their support network of nearby family and friends.

“People face a huge number of different housing problems.  A lack of rights for private renters puts them at risk of sudden eviction, even if they are up to date with the rent.  The rules for landlords and letting agents need to change to protect families living in the private rented sector. Putting an end to retaliatory evictions is a good place to start.  We hope that MPs support the Tenancies Reform Bill on Friday.”

Police arrest multiple computer hijackers

Five people have been arrested in the UK as part of an international operation targeting users of software designed to remotely take over, control and steal information from computers.

The arrests were led by the National Crime Agency (NCA), and involved officers from a number of police Regional Organised Crime Units. They carried out raids over several days to reduce the threat posed by tools known as Remote Access Trojans (RATs).

The UK arrests were part of international activity, coordinated through Europol – which has resulted in a total of 11 further individuals being arrested in Estonia, France, Romania, Latvia, Italy, and Norway.

Further action

In addition to arresting people believed to have used RATs, the NCA is warning individuals that any movement into cyber criminality will result in further action.

Criminals who successfully deploy RATs can gain complete control over target computers, wherever they are in the world. They can turn victims’ webcams on and off, access banking or other personal information, download new and potentially illegal content, and instruct the victim’s computer to help commit acts of criminality such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks.

No signs of infection

Victims are typically infected by being convinced to click on a link purporting to be a picture or video, or disguised as a legitimate file, but is instead an installer for the RAT. In many cases, those who unwittingly install such trojans will have no indication that their machine is infected.

Andy Archibald, Deputy Director of the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said: “The illegal use of Remote Access Trojans is a significant cyber crime threat, demanding this kind of strong, coordinated response from international to local UK level. Suspected users of RATs are continuing to find that, despite having no physical contact or interaction with their victims, they can still be identified, tracked down and arrested by the NCA and its partners.

How to avoid falling victim to RATs

  • Be careful what you post online. Criminals can research victims acquire information which can later be used to exploit victims.
  • Use strong passwords for your devices and online applications.
  • Buy legitimate software from reputable companies, and download free software with caution.
  • Back up devices so that important files and documents can be recovered.

Read more on the NCA website.

Please note: Action Fraud is not responsible for the content on external websites.

If you’ve lost money or information or your computer/smartphone has been taken over by a phishing or malware attack report it to Action Fraud.

Sarah Teather’s bill to tackle revenge eviction published

Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather’s bill to tackle retaliatory evictions has today been published, ahead of its second reading on Friday.

The Tenancies (Reform) Bill will stop landlords evicting tenants who make a complaint about essential repairs or poor conditions in their homes. It has cross-party support, and the Government is supporting the bill in principle.

Figures from Shelter show 213,000 people have been victims of revenge eviction in the last year alone. On top of this, one in eight tenants have not asked for repairs because they fear eviction.

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Research also reveals those who find it most difficult to rent – including families receiving Housing Benefit and BME people – are more likely to be evicted simply for complaining about a serious problem in their home.

On Friday, MPs will get the chance to support the bill at its second reading in the House of Commons.

Commenting, Sarah said:

“This is a great opportunity for us to make the private rented sector work better for tenants, local authorities and good landlords alike.

“Many people put up with dangerous or unsanitary conditions because they fear eviction. Understandably, they don’t want to leave their community or take their kids out of the local school – or face the costs of moving to another home.

“This is also bad for good landlords. They want to know about problems as they arise – not get a nasty surprise when tenants leave the property. Stopping revenge eviction will also give local authorities the confidence to use their powers to tackle poor conditions in the private rented sector.

“That’s why I am urging MPs to turn up to support the bill on Friday, and put a stop to retaliatory eviction once and for all.”

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive said:

“No family should have to live in a home that puts their health and well-being at risk, let alone face eviction just for asking their landlord to fix a problem.

“Yet every day, we hear from parents up and down the country living in fear that damp or gas and electrical hazards are putting their children in danger, but feeling powerless to do anything about it. This has to stop.

“With a bill to end revenge evictions going through parliament this week, we now have a real chance to change the law and protect renting families. We’re calling on people across the country to email their MPs and ask them to vote to end this unfair practice once and for all.”