Newcastle CAB has won a coveted national award for its work with Newcastle City Council on Council Tax debts and bailiffs in the City.
The “Social Policy Oscar” award was made by Citizens Advice, at their annual conference in Exeter.
The Bureau’s work was judged 'Best Local Campaign' for helping clients struggling to cope with Council Tax debts and bailiff action.
Staff and volunteers from Newcastle CAB are working closely with staff from the City Council to help local people who have debt problems, and are finding it difficult to pay their Council Tax.
Council Tax is a priority debt, and non-payment usually results in legal action, ultimately prison. CAB and Council staff are now working closely together to help clients as soon as possible, and avoid the use of bailiffs to collect the debts.
Newcastle CAB Chief Executive Shona Alexander said “We are delighted to win this award, against stiff competition from CABx all over the country. It recognises the good joint work we have been doing with Newcastle City Council over the past year, helping some of the poorest people in the City to manage their debts and avoid the use of bailiffs.”
Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Joyce McCarty, said “We know that times are hard for many local people who are struggling to pay bills, and risk getting into debt. Our work with Newcastle CAB is crucial to helping the most vulnerable people with their debt problems, and avoiding costly legal action.
"This award is welcome recognition of the good work which our joint team of staff and volunteers have done on their behalf”.
Ewen Weir, Acting Chief Executive of the Council said “This excellent joint work will be particularly important in the next financial year when changes to Council Tax Benefit rules mean there will be an increase in the numbers of people liable to pay Council Tax.”
The number of enquiries made at Newcastle CAB about Council Tax debts has increased by nearly 300% over the last two years.
The Bureau has received many enquiries and complaints about the use of bailiffs by the Council. Citizens Advice campaigners believe that the Council should only use bailiffs as a last resort. The Bureau raised these concerns, and as a result staff and volunteers from Newcastle CAB are working much more closely with staff from the City Council.
The Council has provided a special ‘hot line’ for CAB advisers to help local people who have debt problems, and are struggling to pay their Council Tax.
CAB and Council staff held joint workshops, to share good practice. The aim is to help as many clients as soon as possible, and reduce the use of bailiffs to collect the debts. Our shared message is clear: Don’t ignore Council Tax bills – if you are having problems paying them, get help and advice straight away, to avoid legal action and further costs.
Page last updated: 20 September, 2012