Wednesday, 30 April 2014

"Who is protecting the vulnerable and the poor?"

Dear Mr Jones, Did you know that 4 of your constituents every day lose their life savings through a scam or rogue trader? One trading standards service in a London authority recently told me that on average 4 residents a day call to report a major financial loss to criminal activity of this kind. They lose not only their life savings and the means to live independently, but also the confidence to do so. A victim of doorstep crime is two and a half times more likely than non-victim peers to be in residential care or have died two years later.

These rogue traders and scammers target the most vulnerable in our society. Yet the resources allocated to protect them have been slashed during this parliament. A recent workforce survey by the Trading Standards Institute and the National Trading Standards board shows that on average trading standards budgets across England and Wales will have been cut by 40% over the lifetime of this parliament. Staff numbers have been cut by almost half since 2009. 70% of trading standards services will stop or limit some services, including proactive consumer education initiatives and consumer advice.

Trading standards officers are on the front line battling scammers and rogue traders who prey on the vulnerable. The services they provide can be crucial in preventing people from becoming victims, and early intervention can limit the harm caused to victims and their families. Non-statutory services which are most at risk in the current climate are proven to be effective in tackling financial harm. One trading standards service saw their chronic scam victim count climb from 6 to 102 after their consumer advice service was cut.

Investing in trading standards will bring considerable long term benefits to the public purse. Prevention is always cheaper than cure. For example, a recent trial in Scotland has shown that an investment of just £100 for a call blocking device can help older residents to stay in their own homes longer, saving local authorities over £100 a day for residential care. Young people are also protected by trading standards: it is their responsibility to enforce age restricted sales, working to stop the 600 children taking up smoking every day in the UK.

Yours sincerely
Leon Livermore
Chief Executive, Trading Standards Institute