Read more about our Research and Campaigns priorities

Digital exclusion

Digital exclusion has huge consequences for individual wellbeing and massive cost implications for UK productivity, economic growth and public health. The root causes of digital exclusion reflect longstanding social, economic and regional disparities which are not easily solved.

There is rarely just one reason why people are digitally excluded and there is no single solution. It is estimated that approximately 30% of the Surrey population does not have access to digital technologies, or if they do, choose not to use the technology. We also know that this is broadly linked to deprivation, which in turn is related to poorer health outcomes.

Whilst we cannot quantify the number of clients affected from our data, we know from external evidence that in Surrey, an estimated 200,000 people suffer from digital exclusion (reference Surrey-i).

Our data shows the depth of the issue and the significant impact it is having on people who do not have the technological means or the competencies to engage digitally (ability to complete forms online, communicate via email or mobile) to access services which can enable them to improve their lives.  Digital exclusion is identified as one of the issues in accessing services and communicating with Guildford Borough Council. Our data shows that we are currently supporting clients with some processes that requires digital access. This is often the only channel available and demand for our support is increasing.

Priority objectives

To increase the number of people who can access key services through non-digital channels, such as face to face or over the phone and, if having to engage digitally, are supported to do so by those key services.

Blue Badge delays

Anyone with a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) award is likely to be very aware of the long delays around the review and renewal of the benefit. One unfortunate consequence is the knock-on effect on Blue Badge parking permits.

Whilst this issue is recognised country-wide, at Citizens Advice South West Surrey we are concerned with the impact on people who have disabilities that limit their mobility, including those with a terminal illness whose lives are shortened. For these clients, the delays may be profound.

If you receive the higher-level PIP mobility component you are automatically entitled to a Blue Badge. However, people left in limbo by the huge backlog of PIP reviews find they are having to apply for the permit in a procedure described as “worse than applying for PIP”, with no guarantee of success.

We can see evidence in South West Surrey, especially for Macmillan clients. Here’s how one of our clients was impacted (comments captured by one of our Advisers):

“The client applied for a renewal of their Blue Badge seven weeks before it was due to expire.  At the time of the renewal application, Surrey County Council were quoting six to eight weeks to process a Blue Badge application. The client’s Blue Badge is now due to expire in two weeks and they have not yet received the new badge.  The Council has now quoted at least 11 weeks for the processing time of a Blue Badge. They are still processing badges from July 2023.”

Priority objective

To reduce the waiting time for a person (with a disability that limits their mobility) to receive a Blue Badge, from twelve weeks to six weeks from the moment of application.

Cost of Living crisis – Food insecurity 

In 2023, Cost of Living issues accounted for around half of all client issues where we provided advice. Charitable support and foodbanks constituted 22% of all Cost of Living issues in 2023. This is a direct result of increased living costs and insufficient correlating rises from benefit’s income.  In total, we helped our clients with 771 charitable support and foodbank issues in 2023. The demand on foodbanks and community fridges is a national recognised issue

Priority objectives

To investigate the extent of food insecurity within Guildford and Waverley and aim to understand the reasons for the need for foodbanks, their coverage, ability to meet demand and their effectiveness.

Cost of Living crisis – Awareness raising 

The Cost of Living crisis has firmly placed Citizens Advice in the spotlight as the government’s ‘go to’ organisation for robust and reliable data. We have helped to underline the impact of the Cost of Living crisis across the last two years and continues to have on everyday lives.  This, in turn, has contributed to an upward rise in the number of issues that we helped clients with – a 4.2% increase in the last 12 months, May 2023 to April 2024.

Priority objectives

To raise awareness of the scale and depth of the Cost of Living crisis with our key stakeholders. We will map our stakeholders within Guildford and Waverley and beyond, categorising them according to power and influence. The next stage is to design and implement an external communications plan, assigning different channels of communication to different stakeholders.

Social Housing – Tenants moving into properties with no carpets and/or insufficient ‘white goods’ 

The biggest issues our clients experience with Local Authority Housing and Housing Association properties are disrepair (damp/mould/condensation) and suitability of accommodation. Suitability of accommodation specifically relates to lack of carpeting and white goods.

The carpeting issue was previously raised and addressed with Waverley Borough Council (WBC) in a local campaign. This resulted in carpets no longer being removed and instead, it was agreed that they would be cleaned. For the majority of clients waiting to take up their tenancy, new carpeting is not affordable and some clients are unable to move in until carpets are laid.

This issue has recently re-occurred with WBC properties and is also an ongoing issue with Guildford Borough Council properties.  In addition, charitable support to help with the cost of carpeting and white goods is no longer as widely available.​

Priority objectives

To gather further evidence to support re-opening a dialogue with our local councils to investigate and agree solutions for the carpeting and white goods issue. We will also work with local charities to highlight the affordability issues for clients to pay for new carpeting and white goods, and the impact a delay in moving in has on a client’s mental health and well-being.​

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – Making and managing a claim 

Our research evidence shows that making and managing a PIP claim is a significant issue for our clients. The overall success rate of approved applications is 52%, but varies according to condition  (Reference Benefits and Work). As a nationally recognised issue, it is a Research and Campaigns policy priority for national Citizens Advice.

Clients experience difficulty in completing the PIP application, communicating with DWP about their claim, and are impacted by long delays before they receive the outcome of their application. PIP is the top benefits and tax credits issue making up 32% of all client issues (April to November 2023) in our geography.  It is also the top Cost of Living issue representing 29% of all client issues (Aug to October 2023), which is an increase of 10% for same period in the previous year.

Priority objective

To continue to contribute evidence to national Citizens Advice to support their work in bringing about policy change which will result in the PIP application process becoming easier to use and faster to process.


Further information

If you would like to know more about any of the priorities discussed here, have been directly affected or think you may be able to influence any, please get in touch with us at research&