I talk with former CEO of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI). Leon Livermore, in a series of interviews. In the first one we discuss his work at CTSI.
What is the CTSI?
Leon Livermore was the CEO of the CTSI, for almost 8 years until March 2021. The CTSI works with the Government, UK and EU Parliamentary institutions, businesses, consumer organisations and other regulatory bodies to maintain and improve customer protection. It is also responsible for reinforcing fair markets and supporting businesses in their legal duties, competitiveness and success.
Businesses need to be aware of/members of the CTSI as it helps them understand their legal obligations and enhances their reputation, profile and performance.
I’ve met him a few times at various events and sort of got on! I say “sort of” because over the years I’ve co-written two research reports on Alternative Dispute Resolution. (ADR) . Both of these were highly critical of the CTSI and CAA, in particular, for their approval and monitoring of ADR schemes.
So I thought it would be interesting to have a chat about his time at CTSI and challenge him on ADR too!
When The Complaining Cow chatted with the former CTSI CEO Leon Livermore
The forum meeting Leon refers to in that clip was replicated:
How approval bodies are failing to properly approve and monitor Alternative Dispute Resolution -
Pride and enjoyment
But we started with the easy stuff! I asked Leon what achievement he was most proud of and what he had enjoyed the most during his time at CTSI. He was most proud of achieving chartered status, having applied for this a number of times, and having to sort out qualifications and other issues. This status placed the profession on the same footing as others and clearly gives CTSI the mandate from the UK Government (it is awarded by HM the Queen through the privy Council) to speak with authority on all matters of Trading Standards and competence.
Leon Livermore ex CTSI CEO talks about his proudest achievements
The challenges of regulation and possible solutions – Challenges born of crisis but soon forgotten
When asked what the biggest challenge was, Leon was highly critical of the Government and the current regulatory system. He spoke of Grenfell and of Whirlpool and said how, at the time of the foot and mouth crisis, money was heavily invested in animal health and welfare which was subsequently reduced because people lose that collective memory for past disasters.
“Take 60-70% out of the regulatory network, no-one notices until it goes wrong.”
It doesn’t make sense to have around 220 individual local Trading Standards services now, he says. That model was designed when everyone shopped locally and they obviously don’t now! There is a disconnect, with Government saying that local Trading Standards should undertake the consumer-facing work but localities not having the funding to carry out that work. Recognising that no-one is going to change the structure of Trading Standards, he calls for accountability at the level of Central Government. Grenfell and Whirlpool brought a focus on safety and a Minister was put in place who could be held to account.
Leon Livermore former CTSI CEO talks with The Complaining Cow about challenges of working in CTSI.
Whirlpool drier recall – more spin than real action?
We discussed our joint contempt for how the Whirlpool situation was left to the local Trading Standards department in Peterborough when it was a national problem. I wrote about Whirlpool a lot on my blog, including a report in 2018 which brought together a number of Freedom of Information Requests and statements from relevant bodies. Whirlpool – The tumble dryer story without the spin. Leon spoke about having to sit “with the bad guys” in a meeting with BEIS (Department for Business, Enterprise, Industrial Strategy (I call them BEIGE!) and having to try and justify the decision made by the local authority, when it should never have been left to them. He also spoke of how CTSI “…called for a full recall ahead of Which? and anyone else” and that this was at the same time as Peterborough Trading Standards department was giving different advice to Whirlpool.
Although there was nothing wrong with the advice they gave, which was their job to do, it just “didn’t pass that mum’s testIt didn’t sit right but it is hard for a local regulator that is exposed to so much risk to follow the letter of the law, he said. He argues that this is when the national regulator needs to come in and say what is in the best interests of consumers and provide the quicker more simple solution
In 2018 the Office of Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) was established on the back of the Whirlpool events. Leon praised the set-up of the Food Standards Agency and their work with local authorities and hopes that the OPSS will work in a similar fashion and so if something similar ever happens again then work will be quicker. But he is concerned that faulty and dangerous machines are still being used. He wants a system that protects people more efficiently but that people’s memories are so short!
Leon Livermore former CTSI CEO discusses the Whirlpool events with Helen Dewdney
Next time in the interview series
Look out for the next episode where Leon and I talk ADR! Having had good debates, arguments and differences of opinion over the years, what does he think now? What will we agree on and what did he think went wrong. Most importantly, how could the ADR scene be improved?
Many of us love the Xmas advent calendar, especially those with children who get a chocolate each day don’t we? (And just where did those advent calendars go that just had the picture??) But many families are sleeping in bed and breakfast (that’s a just a term by the way, there is no breakfast). The breadwinner has simply lost their job or fallen sick and/or most have fallen foul of the failure known as the benefits system and the chaos that Iain Duncan Smith started. And let’s not forget he resided over it for some time before completely messing up the Universal Credit system for someone else to take the blame! But hey that’s just my opinion! Many of these families are local to YOU and their children go to YOUR children’s school. That is if you don’t already have use of it yourself as the numbers of users are growing out of control.
It is just so wrong that whilst many of us over indulge this Christmas, so many people will be struggling to feed their kids at all and/or will go hungry themselves through no fault of their own. With no school meals over the holidays and the need to heat homes, the struggle is even worse at this time than any other. The use of foodbanks rises by 45% in December. The reverse advent calendar is just one small way in which you can give something back and it’s helping your local community too.
What is the Reverse Advent Calendar?
This reverse advent calendar is a great idea. It’s been happening for a few years now all over the world. The UK Money bloggers have launched a campaign to really give it a push again this year and as one of the bloggers I am helping to promote it.
Each day for 24 days you put something for the food bank in a box and at the end of this time give it to your local foodbank. Some sites start on the 1st December and hand it in on the 24th December. But please see Tips and ideas below as most of us are doing it through November. We are doing 30 days again too so it’s all up to you!
Statistics on the use of foodbanks
The Trussell Trust’s Foodbank network of over 425 foodbanks handed out 1,182,954 three-day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis in the year April 2016 – March 2017. But remember there are many more foodbanks all over the country which are not part of this network so the numbers are far bigger that need to use these services.
Trussell Trust’s foodbank network provided 1,332,952 three day food supplies between 1st April 2017 and 31st March 2018, a 13% increase from the previous year and issues with benefits continue to be the most common cause of referral.
Early Warnings: Universal Credit and Foodbanks, highlights that although the rollout of the new Universal Credit system for administering benefits has been piecemeal so far, foodbanks in areas of partial or full rollout are reporting significant problems with its impact.
• Households using food banks face extreme financial vulnerability. All food bank users had, in the last month, an income well below the threshold for low income. More than 1/3 of households experienced an income shock in the past three months and over 2/3 reported unexpected and rising expenses during the same period.
• Almost half of households reported their incomes were unsteady from week to week or month to month.
• Half of households included someone with a disability.
• Lone parents and their children constitute the largest number of people receiving help from food banks, though single male households are the most common household type.
• Over 78% of households were severely food insecure. For a majority of households, this was a chronic experience, happening every month or almost every month over the past 12 months.
• Food bank users experience multiple forms of destitution – 50% had gone without heating for more than four days in the past 12 months, and 1 in 5 had slept rough in the last 12 months.
28 Reverse advent calendar tips and ideas
Think about when you want to do this. Doing it through December may seem like a good idea but if you are going to put some Xmas related food things in there, it may be too late for the food bank to donate. Find out from your local one when would be best to donate, it may want a mix as donations may be fewer in January. Trussell Trust has said to us specifically that they would like donations earlier in December.
Google foodbank and your local area, not all foodbanks are run by Trussell, many are by other charities and churches.
Contact your local foodbank and see if there are items of which they particularly short, and when would be best for you to drop off the box. Although they will be grateful for anything 20 cartons of UHT milk maybe something they are short of possibly more useful than 20 different tins of beans and soup.
Remember that some foodbanks also welcome toiletries so that families can maintain dignity and this will last them longer than the 3 days of food that they get too.
Obviously foodbanks need non perishables, but look for long term sell by dates too to make it easier for foodbanks to manage. It could be that your foodbank gets masses for Xmas and then has nothing except going out of date food in the Spring or nothing at all! Ask what is best for them.
Get the children involved, decorating the box, ideas of what to put in and perhaps even donate some pocket money or sweets?
Pastas, dried fruit, tins of soup, vegetables, rice pudding, custard etc., packets and jars of sauces, biscuits, tea/coffee, UHT milk, long life juices, baby food, rice, cereals, noodles, health bars, lentils, cakes, mince pies, Xmas puddings, bread/similar which keeps longer than fresh, such as part baked bread, waffles, wraps etc., crisps and other savoury items, soap, deodorant, shower gel, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sanitary products, toilet rolls, baby wipes and shampoo. Think of things that don’t need to be heated too, such as cold meats and fish so a substantial meal can still be had and boxes of Smash that only need water to make.
Carrier bags! Or conference totes/canvas bags for life instead for more eco friendly use!
Remember users of foodbanks are struggling to feed their families, as well as the essentials, so think about putting some treats in such as chocolates too (think of buying when buy one get one free on those tubs for even more!)
Get the bargains when you see them in the supermarket and bargain shops which will good for toiletries. When you get the buy one get one frees consider giving them both that day!
Keep an eye out for coupons and discount codes for items that you wouldn’t use yourself but would make ideal items for the foodbank
Don’t forget to look in your cupboards for food you bought or were given but are now unlikely to use
If you are going to get things with shorter life span such as part bake bread get them nearer the end of the 24 days!
It was on one of those food programmes about saving money a few weeks ago showing that if you go down the World Food aisle that you will often find similar products just with a different name to that you are used to but are actually cheaper
You don’t need a fancy box! Anything will do, everything gets sorted when it arrives at the foodbank and you don’t have to think what goes with what, the volunteers will sort into bags for users for you.
Consider throwing in some sachets of herbs, remember that a lot of those emergency food bags will be full of bulky plain food, herbs and spices will add some flavour and take up little room in that bag
Foodbanks are run by volunteers, consider volunteering or donating long term
Think about getting your workplace colleagues to run some boxes, make it competitive between teams if you work in a big workplace! Or use it as way to spread the cost, you could also do this with your neighbours and your children’s clubs and groups
Great Tip! Shopmium and Checkoutsmart Now, here’s a great little app. If you go to Shopmium* you can get food with discounts or even for free. That’s a referral link, so if you go through and sign up on that I’ll get a freebie, you get a freebie and you will see the offers on at the moment which change all the time. Then you will have your own referral code too. I am using the offers to get discounts on perishables plus perishables that I don’t like so that the foodbank can get extra too taking advantage of every bargain I can get to be able to give more. Wins all round! All you need to do is take a photo of the bar code and receipt and you get your cash back. Shopimum uses all the major supermarkets. Checkoutsmart no referral codes but works same way. Seems to have more looking through at the moment.
When you are out shopping, tell the assistants what you are doing, you may inspire other people to join in.
Check with your foodbank how and when is best for dropping of your boxes.
Healthy is good, but some people have just a kettle so pot noodles are fine too.
Check if you have a babybank near you. Google babybank and your area. You may have seen Dispatches on babybanks? Expectant and new parents who have nothing for their newborns at what should be a double exciting time. Consider donating baby items, contact the banks to see what they need.
There won’t be fresh meat or fish to put jars/packets of sauce on, so think about tinned meat and fish and also packets of soya.
See if your foodbank also takes food for pets. Someone could have a pet and was looking after it quite well until the transfer to UC saw that they went without money for 5 weeks so now they can’t feed their pet either.
From I, Daniel Blake:
Food Bank scene
Iain Duncan Smith and politics
Can’t really do a post about foodbanks without mentioning this really.
Those of you who have been following my blog for some time will know that I interviewed Iain Duncan Smith when he was Director of Death and Destruction because he is my MP (don’t blame me I didn’t vote for him). The Complaining Cow Meets Iain Duncan Smith #IDSfail and Round 2 The Complaining Cow Meets IDS when I went a second time much to his displeasure. I used the fact that I could go to his surgeries and took him to task in the limited time I had. One of the things, amongst many, was foodbanks.
The Complaining Cow and Iain Duncan Smith discuss Food Banks
I did let the food bank know of his request but I don’t think they wanted him there! One can understand why not.
And whilst we are about it. Jacob Rees-Mogg is one of the wealthiest MPs in Parliament. He has reportedly made millions of pounds in high finance and is due to inherit £100 million from his family estate. Know what he said about foodbanks? “The rise of food banks across the UK is actually “rather uplifting” because it shows the British people are charitable” and “The real reason for the rise in numbers is because people know they are there and Labour refused to tell them.” Idiocy for a supposedly educated man. One of those academics with no common sense. Or empathy. Or compassion. Or understanding of issues facing millions of families in the UK.
So who is first against the wall come the revolution do you think? Duncan Smith? Rees-Mogg? May? Farage? Gove? It’s ok I think there will be enough of us to take them all.
Since when did feeding UK children boil down to volunteers?
Foodbank volunteers donate at least £30million a year in unpaid work Foodbank volunteers ‘perform £30million a year worth of unpaid work’, shock study reveals Volunteers do a staggering 2,909,196 hours of unpaid work distributing food – and calculating the value of their time using the minimum wage, currently £7.50 an hour for the over 25s, it equates to £21,818,967 a year; or 55,945 hours, with a value of £419,587 each week. Should feeding children with no food or heating really be down to volunteers and donations?
Universal Credit and the impact on foodbank usage
The Trussell Trust report The next stage of Universal Credit states that: “When Universal Credit goes live in an area, there is a demonstrable increase in demand in local Trussell Trust foodbanks. On average, 12 months after rollout, foodbanks see a 52% increase in demand, compared to 13% in areas with Universal Credit for 3 months or less. This increase cannot be attributed to randomness and exists even after accounting for seasonal and other variations.
More detailed foodbank referral data show that benefit transitions, most likely due to people moving onto Universal Credit, are increasingly accounting for more referrals and are likely driving up need in areas of full Universal Credit rollout. Waiting for the first payment is a key cause, while for many, simply the act of moving over to a new system is causing hardship.
This poses serious questions for the next stage of Universal Credit, where many people could lose their benefits entirely or find themselves with less income. The Department’s current plans involve sending letters to people informing them their claim will be terminated if they do not apply for Universal Credit within a four week period. Each claimant will then have to wait at least five weeks for their first payment. Some of the most vulnerable people in our country will be moved onto Universal Credit under this next stage, with half claiming tax credits and a third claiming disability benefits.
The Department plans to offer support for vulnerable claimants, but has not set out how they will identify vulnerability or what support will be offered. ‘Transitional protection’, where no claimant should receive less under Universal Credit than legacy benefits, can be lost if claims are incorrect or if minor circumstances change.”
Quick word on donating Advent calendars
It may cross your mind to donate some chocolate advent calendars. However, for those of us who have them, it leads up to the big day. Most families, if not all using a foodbank, will be using food possibly not even heated for Christmas day. Just another day, no big build up.
Also some get inundated and for others they arrive too late.
I am going to donate a load of selection boxes again this year with the calendar box instead:
Rounding up on the reverse foodbankadvent
So, are you going to do your box with me? I’m starting on the 1st November again. My supermarket delivery comes tomorrow so I’ve just added some items to it! Share on social media using the #foodbankadvent hashtag to encourage others. If you have any more tips, or ideas to share please do add them in the comments and please share the word wherever you can, it is such a good idea and helps so many people who really are in a desperate situation.
I’ll leave the last word to Lisi, daughter of Becky Goddard-Hill who blogs at Babybudgeting. So get your kids involved too. My son decorated (ish!) the box but wouldn’t do anything on camera so well done Lisi!
The contents of my foodbank boxes Christmas 2017 and 2018
Day 10 2017
A third of the way in. The more eagle eyed will note that there are more than 10 items in here! That’s because so far I have got 3 jars of baby food, some chick pea puffs and some baked pea snacks for free so they are bonus items!