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Annual general meeting 2020
Dear Friends of Citizens Advice Stevenage, Stakeholders, Partners and Colleagues
The Citizens Advice Stevenage annual general meeting (AGM) will take place, online, at 2pm on Thursday 03 December 2020. Given the extra resources needed this year to respond to the pandemic our board of trustees have decided that this year’s AGM will be forum for formal business only and we will have a bigger event next year.
You can read the minutes from last year - AGM 2019 Minutes
You can view the agenda for this year – Agenda 2020
How the AGM will work this year
The AGM will take place online and details on how to book your place and join can be found below.
Trustees and Voting Members of the Stevenage Citizens Advice Bureau (Citizens Advice Stevenage) can vote on resolutions. This year, each resolution and/or special resolution will be voted on via proxy. There will not be live voting at the AGM but we will ask for someone to propose and second. All proxy forms for the AGM resolutions must be received by 5pm on Monday 30 November, proxy forms will be circulated by the end of next week to Trustees and Voting Members only.
Click here to book your place and a joining link will be sent to you.
Annual report
The annual report will be issued digitally and in print this year. We’ll also make it available on our website. Click here to request your copy.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support this year.
Over 7 million disabled people faced delivery problem in single week, despite online shopping being a lockdown lifeline

Citizens Advice has found that two in five (39% equal to 7.1 million) disabled people have had a problem with parcel delivery in a single week. This compares to just 27% of people who don’t identify as disabled.  

This number jumps to just over half (51%) when looking at those in the shielded group, which includes those who are elderly, pregnant or have a long-term illness. These problems include parcels left in inaccessible places, delivery drivers not leaving enough time for people to answer the door, and goods not being delivered on time or at all.

Under lockdown, parcel deliveries have become a lifeline, with over half (51%) of people saying they are more reliant on parcels than before the coronavirus outbreak. 

In addition to this, UK consumers are spending more online, with an average of £2.5 billion spent  a week online in June, compared to £1.5 billion in February (a 62% increase).

Despite this increasing reliance, Citizens Advice has seen a 119% increase in people seeking help on parcel issues on its website since lockdown began in March.

Charlotte, a quadruple amputee who uses delivery services frequently, explains how more still needs to be done:

“I find it difficult to get to the shops so I’m reliant on home deliveries.  I need more time to get to, and open, the door when I get a parcel delivered. 

“I have a sign in my front door asking for deliveries and post to be taken to the side entrance as it’s more accessible. But nine times out of ten my sign is ignored and my parcels are left in places I cannot access.”

“I wish that I could let delivery companies know I have accessibility needs so I was given more time to get to the side door. And then that would mean my parcels were not left outside or left in unsuitable places. I don't think they realise the emotional stress and upset of not receiving a parcel causes me, it makes me feel vulnerable and helpless.”

Last year, Citizens Advice called on delivery companies to improve parcel deliveries for disabled people. But with many disabled people belonging to the shielded group or relying even more on parcel deliveries due to Covid-19, ensuring that everyone has equal access to delivery services has become more important than ever.

Five UK parcel companies committed to finding a way to do this, including DHL Parcel, Hermes, DPD, Menzies, and Parcelly. They agreed to find a way to:

  • Allow disabled people to specify their explicit accessibility needs and pass these onto the driver making the delivery. This could include allowing more time for drivers when delivering and leaving parcels in accessible locations that are easy to reach. 

  • Publish detailed accessibility information online so disabled people can choose where they can pick up and drop off parcels. 

Many delivery companies, including some major players, have yet to sign the pledge meaning millions of deliveries remain inaccessible or don’t meet the needs of disabled consumers. Citizens Advice is urging all companies to commit fully to its pledge to make sure they're giving all consumers equal access to this essential service.

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

“It’s hard to imagine how many of us would get through lockdown without getting parcels delivered. Over half of us say we’re more reliant on parcel deliveries than ever before.

“They’ve allowed us to send and receive gifts from families or friends to retain a sense of normality, and even helped businesses to stay afloat. But for many disabled consumers or for those previously shielding, parcel delivery has become a lifeline for accessing essential items. 

“We’d like to see all parcel companies sign our pledge so they can deliver for everyone, regardless of their accessibility needs.”


For more information contact: abigail.reynolds@citizensadvice.org.uk

Tel: 03000 231 080

Out-of-hours contact number: 0845 099 0107

Parents, carers and disabled people at least twice as likely to face redundancy, warns Citizens Advice
  • ‘This could be the tip of the iceberg’ - advisers training up for wave of redundancies

  • Gillian Guy: ‘As tough as these times are, they cannot be used as an excuse to break the rules’

Citizens Advice has found that parents, carers, disabled people whose disability has a large impact on their day-to-day life, and those who previously shielded, are at least twice as likely to face redundancy as the rest of the working population. This comes as demand for the charity’s advice on redundancy selection has increased almost seven-fold. 

Although the new research shows the risk of redundancy is widespread, with one in six (17%) of the working age population facing redundancy, it indicated that those in more vulnerable circumstances are likely to bear the brunt. The charity’s survey of 6,000 people shows: 

  • One in four disabled people (27%) were facing redundancy. This rose to 37% of those who said their disability has a large impact on their day-to-day life. 

  • Half of those who were in the shielded group (48%), as they were extremely clinically vulnerable to coronavirus, were at risk of redundancy

  • Two in five parents or carers (39%) faced losing their job

‘I've been so worried that I could lose my house - how long until I find another job?’

Retail worker Natalie had always been given shifts around her childcare. She was told she would be made redundant after returning from furlough because she wasn’t able to work more flexible hours. She told her employer this was unfair and was then asked to take a test along with other employees, after which she was made redundant.

The mum-of-one has applied for Universal Credit but fears it won’t cover her essentials bills. 

She said: “I've been so worried that I could lose my house as I don't know how long it will be until I find another job. I've always worked and never been unemployed. This is quite a scary scenario.

“I've had to call my family and my ex-partner to see if they can help pay my mortgage as the thought of losing my home scares me. It would destroy me”. 

‘We're retraining advisers on employment rights - this could be the tip of the iceberg’

Jamie McGlynn, Contact Centre Manager at Citizens Advice Manchester, said: "We're seeing a lot of redundancy issues, but it gives you a sinking feeling when someone who's been shielding, is a carer or has young kids tells you they've been picked as the first to go. 

“People are absolutely wracked with worry. One lady with underlying health conditions told her employer she felt unsafe about returning to work as another worker had Covid symptoms but wasn’t isolating. The next week she had her redundancy notice through.

"We're retraining some of our advisers on employment rights because we know what we're seeing now could be just the tip of the iceberg."

All workers are protected by law against discrimination. But at the moment workers have no guarantee these laws will be enforced.

There are six national organisations which enforce workers’ rights, but employees who have been unfairly sacked or treated often can’t call for their situation to be investigated. While they could take their issue to an employment tribunal, there was a backlog of 400,000 cases going into this crisis.

Citizens Advice is calling for a single watchdog to enforce employees’ rights. The government committed to establishing this in the 2019 Queen’s Speech. In the meantime, Citizens Advice is urging that emergency funding be given to the existing enforcement bodies.

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

“Employers face difficult choices but there are worrying signs disabled workers, people who shielded, parents and carers are being pushed to the front of the queue when it comes to redundancy. 

“As tough as these times are, they cannot be used as an excuse to break the rules. 

“If someone is facing an unfair redundancy, the odds of getting redress under the current system are stacked against them. Workers need a watchdog that will be a one-stop shop to protect their employment rights.”

Additional data from Citizens Advice

  • Demand for one-to-one advice on redundancy selection issues has increased almost seven-fold from February. In July Citizens Advice’s frontline advisers provided support to 2,508 people with redundancy selection issues, compared to 368 in February.

  • Citizens Advice has given one-to-one redundancy selection advice to 6,353 people since lockdown began

  • The charity’s frontline advisers are dealing with a redundancy issue every two minutes

  • Visits to its redundancy discrimination page doubled from 7,000 in May to 14,000 in July.

  • In July, it recorded nearly 415,000 visits to its redundancy pages overall, compared to just over 75,000 this time the previous year, 23,000 more than in June and 180,000 more than in May.

  • Its “Check how much redundancy pay you can get" and "Check if your redundancy is fair" were the second and third most-viewed advice pages for July.

Demand for Citizens Advice rent arrears advice up 332%

With just one month to go until the end of the eviction ban (23 August), Citizens Advice is warning it has seen a huge surge in private renters worried about arrears. The charity believes that many renters will need financial support to pay back these debts or risk losing their homes.

New figures from the charity show the level of concern among private renters about rent arrears has rocketed in 2020. Page views of the Citizens Advice web page on ‘Dealing with rent arrears’ increased fourfold year on year. People looking for advice on help they can get with possible homelessness has also increased, despite the temporary ban on repossession action.

A table showing visits to selected Citizens Advice housing pages

The government last week confirmed that the protections against eviction in the private sector will end in August. In contrast, the FCA has already extended the period of eligibility of mortgage holidays, as well as other kinds of consumer credit, until the end of October. Previous research by Citizens Advice has indicated over a third (36%) of private sector renters have seen their income fall by 20% or more - higher than the average of 26% for all tenure types. 

The charity is calling for extra funding to be made available to support people to pay back arrears resulting from coronavirus. The National Residential Landlords Association have this week called for extra financial help for renters in debt when the eviction ban ends.

Case Study

Jessica* has been living with her husband in a rented property for over 11 years. They are both self-employed but Jessica was unable to work for much of last year because of illness. Although she had returned to work, when lockdown struck her work dried up and a job offer for her husband was withdrawn.

Jessica has found it hard to restart her business because she needs to see her clients face to face. The nature of Jessica’s husband's self-employed work also means that he has struggled to get back to work after lockdown.

While the couple have avoided falling into arrears so far thanks to support from family, this support is no longer available. They’re now in the worrying situation of having no money to pay the rent and are worried about the prospect of eviction.

Jessica says:

“It knocked us for six. Luckily we’ve had enough help from family up until now where we have got just enough to pay our rent on time. 

“It’s like coronavirus isn't even happening for my landlord. All they want to know is if they’re getting their rent. We’re at a crossroads - we don't know what our rights are and what we can do and what we can actually say to them. How can the government lift the protections when people are unable to work?

“What’s made me really angry through all this is that I don't think the government have a clue about how it’s affecting people. We really are in trouble. They're giving all this help to people with mortgages, full time jobs and we’re forgotten about. They don't have any idea of how it impacts mental health. It’s been really scary”.

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

“The dramatic jump in the need for advice on rent arrears should be a warning sign for the government that many people are deeply worried about the possibility of losing their home.

“Renters have been particularly vulnerable to the economic effects of Covid-19, yet protections for them run out sooner than many of the other measures to help people struggling, including those for mortgage payers.

“Many renters won’t be in a position to repay arrears built up due to coronavirus. Without help, they risk losing the roof over their head through no fault of their own.”

Advice for tenants served with an eviction notice:

  • Act straight away. Start gathering evidence such as receipts for rent paid or any communications with your landlord. 

  • Local Citizens Advice offices and other housing charities can help.

  • For most tenancy types at least 3 months notice must be given for notices served after 26 March 2020.

  • The Government have introduced new rules for when possession hearings resume, which say that landlords wishing to restart proceedings halted by the possession ban must serve a 'reactivation notice' on the tenant and the court"

  • The landlord can only apply to court for a possession order after the notice has expired

  • If your landlord tries to force you to leave without a court order, this will be a criminal offence (there are exceptions - eg. lodgers).

  • Check that the notice is valid and the process has been followed correctly - the landlord must have used the correct forms and may need to have met other obligations during the course of the tenancy in order for the notice to be valid .

  • You may be able to challenge the notice if it has been served incorrectly, and this may prevent your eviction or give you more time.

Amy Hughes, Housing Expert at Citizens Advice, said:

"The restarting of eviction proceedings will be very worrying for those tenants still reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their finances. 

“There may be a number of ways an eviction notice can be challenged, and anybody served such a notice should get advice about whether it is valid and whether they may be able to stop or delay their eviction.”

“Fortunately there are a range of organisations which can help, including Citizens Advice, but also other housing and debt charities.”