Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (3rd September 2014) warned constituents who are seeking welfare advice to use caution when approaching companies that charge for the service.
In the past few months Tom has heard of increasing reports of constituents turning to services that charge for things such as filling out forms and representation at tribunals.
“It is very distressing to learn that an industry is being allowed to flourish that takes advantage of people who, in all likelihood, are already struggling to make ends meet as it is. Services such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and Welfare Rights officers at local authorities have previously been able to offer these types of services free of charge. Unfortunately, they have been severely hurt by Government cuts, particularly to Legal Aid, and are unable to cope with the increase in benefits queries. It is a recipe for disaster.
“Some of these companies charge up to £75 for simply filling out a form. That is a lot of money to many people in my constituency. I would strongly urge my constituents to use extreme caution before turning to these paid for services. I also feel that these paid for companies need to be monitored much more closely to ensure they are not taking advantage of those who find themselves in extremely difficult situations.”