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Citizens Advice Sandwell – AGM 2017


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We would like to invite you to our AGM and celebration event. The theme this year is:

Regeneration

Times are tough and people need our help more than ever.  This evening will be a celebration of the work we have done in Sandwell over the past year and a recognition of the people who have made a difference to the citizens of Sandwell.

After the report and accounts we will be giving awards to our staff and volunteers, we will hear from our clients and partners. 

There will be a short film and a buffet – We would love it if you would share this celebration with us.

7th December 2017

4pm – 6pm

Brasshouse Community Centre

Brasshouse Lane

Smethwick

B66 1BA

In order to plan the evening could you please rsvp to:

jo.beasant@citizensadvicesandwell.org.uk 

Vicki Fitzgerald

Chief Executive Officer

We are looking for new Trustees to join our Board


trustee-clipartCitizens Advice Sandwell are holding their AGM on 7th December and are looking for Trustees to serve on the Board.

Citizens Advice provides free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to everyone on their rights and responsibilities. We’re here to make our society fairer.

Citizens Advice Sandwell provides services across the Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell for more than 10,500 people each year, dealing with over 36,000 problems. As a charity, we support some of the most disadvantaged and socially excluded communities in the area, with Sandwell being the 12th highest area of deprivation in the UK.

We are looking for people with strategic vision, independent judgment and a willingness to give time and commitment to being a trustee. We are particularly looking for people with either finance or community experience.

A post of trustee is unpaid, but will provide you with a great deal of experience and satisfaction.  All reasonable expenses are reimbursed.

We are particularly keen to achieve a more diverse board of trustees and welcome applications from all sections of the community

For an information and application pack please email: Jo.beasant@citizensadvicesandwell.org.uk

For more information and an informal discussion on the role of trustee, please contact:

Vicki Fitzgerald (Chief Executive Officer) or Farooq Hussain (Chair)

At:

Vicki.fitzgerald@citizensadvicesancewell.org.uk or

Farooq.hussain@citizensadvicesandwell.org.uk

 

                                                                       Closing date 15th November 2017

 

We go where help is needed


We know that there are many people in need and some just can’t get to us, so sometimes we just have to go to them. It takes longer, but it can be worth it.

When John* called our Adviceline needing help with housing costs, with disability benefits and debt he was desperate.

And although his disability meant he couldn’t leave the house – he was being threatened with eviction.

He had been turned down for Employment Support Allowance (ESA), had his Personal Independence Payment (PIP) reduced and his Housing Benefit and  CouncilTax Reduction applications were refused.

When people have numerous issues, there are often complexities in their circumstances and this was certainly the case for John.

He needed someone with knowledge, skill and time to get to the root of his problems, but also to deal with the urgent issue of eviction.

Fortunately for John he had our dedicated, experienced volunteer Adviser Kevin, who visited him at home over 10 times, made countless phone calls and wrote many letters.  

The outcomes for John are positive. He now gets Employment Support Allowance, has had his housing benefit and Council Tax Reduction reinstated and backdated payment made. We are still working with John to get his house fit for someone with his disability and we are supporting him to challenge his PIP decision.

John is settled in his home and has a regular income, things we can take for granted.

Kevin did not work alone, together with the Welfare Rights Team, our Energy Adviser and now the Adult Care team they showed how investing time and working together can really change a life.

*names have been changed to preserve confidentiality.Beautiful old hands

 

Sharing Knowledge – Giving Power


 

pexels-photo-273171                                                                                          Sometimes things are not all that they seem, and when people in powerful positions tell you something is true, people tend to believe them….

This was true for Lisa*, who came to see us last month.  Lisa works full time, although her partner works, he has a zero hours contract – which means it’s hard to plan and budget.  They have two young daughters.

Last year Lisa and her partner fell into council tax arrears, because for some weeks her partner had no work at all. The bill was passed to bailiffs and although it started at around £800 it rose to £1300 because of bailiffs fees and charges.

After borrowing money from family, Lisa was able to agree to pay the balance off over a year and had only one instalment left to pay of less than £80 .

Just before the final payment, out of the blue Lisa received a letter from the bailiffs saying she now owed nearly a thousand pounds and she had one day to pay.

Threats were made of forced entry and seizing of goods.

This was when Lisa came to see us.  She was distraught, terrified that the bailiffs would force entry into her home and take her and her children’s things.  Fortunately we can see debt clients very quickly, and on the same day  she met with Rachael, one of our debt specialists.

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Rachael Walker – Debt Specialist

Rachael could see something was wrong.

An old debt had been found and added to the existing one.

Rachael informed the bailiffs had no right to do what they were doing and in fact it was illegal.

The bailiffs disagreed, but finally after 3 hours, Rachael was able to stop them taking this unnecessary and unlawful action and Lisa was able reach a new agreement and continue to reduce her debt in a way that she has been managing for the past 12 months.

Lisa left feeling reassured and relieved and thankful of the time and help we were able to offer, but just imagine what could have happened to her and her family without the knowledge we gave her!

There are many more people like Lisa, who become vulnerable and don’t understand what they have been told. We continue to challenge the actions of bailiffs who deal with vulnerable people, who are mostly unaware of their rights.  For this family however, the future is clearer and brighter and that’s what we are here for!

*names have been changed to protect identity

 

Brexit – How does it affect you?


Last year the UK public voted to leave the EU.

The government has now triggered Article 50. This means that the process of leaving the EU has started.

Some laws will change in the future – but not immediately.

Everything will stay the same until new laws are made.

If you’re an EU citizen living in the UK, your rights to live, work or get benefits won’t change unless the government passes new laws.

If you’re a UK citizen living in the EU or travelling to the EU, your rights won’t change yet either.

You don’t need to take any action now. Changes to the law will be announced before they happen, so you’ll have time to prepare if you’re affected.

If you think you’ve been discriminated against since the referendum, for example if you’ve been unfairly refused work or housing, or told your rights have changed, you can contact us on 03444111444 or call into one of our offices. – See opening times

People will seek help with their finances every 3 seconds in January


Citizens Advice is expecting more than 370,000 people to seek help on financial issues such as pensions, investments and debts in January after analysis by the charity reveals that people are more likely to research financial decisions now than at any other time of the year.

The analysis of demand for advice over the last year shows that January and February were the busiest months of the year for queries about finances, with someone viewing online advice pages every 3 seconds in January.

While January is often associated with squeezed budgets and debt worries, the research reveals that people also used the New Year to take stock of their money situation and plan their finances long-term.

The charity is expecting demand to reach its peak on 12 January – after people visited twice as many online advice pages about issues around money, insurance and pensions on the same day in 2016.

Issues people are more likely to investigate in January than the rest of the year ahead include:

  • Workplace, personal and state pensions

  • Ways to save money

  • Investments

  • Joint bank accounts

  • Vehicle insurance

As well as going online, people contacted Citizens Advice every 11 seconds with more in-depth questions around debt and money.

Citizens Advice services across the country are expecting to help as many as 2,400 people every working day in January with queries about their finances.

People are most likely to seek advice on personal pensions, bank accounts and credit referencing, while those with debts need help with council tax arrears, credit card debts and debt relief orders.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said:

“Although debt worries can be more acute in January people are also taking stock of their finances and thinking about the future.

“It doesn’t matter what your earn – whether you are on minimum wage or have a comfortable salary – everyone can benefit from reviewing their finances.

“Considering your overall financial situation can help you find a solution for urgent problems, and start planning your finances so that you are better prepared for tomorrow and more financially secure in the long term.

“If you’d like to understand more about how your circumstances affect your money options or are struggling with debt, Citizens Advice can give you the information and advice you need to find a way forward.”

With thousands of people seeking money advice every day, Citizens Advice is sharing eight simple steps you can take to review your finances and start planning for the future.

Get your finances in order

Do a simple budget

Write down your income and take away your essential bills such as gas and electric, food and transport. If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save. If you don’t, look at ways to cut your costs. Use our online tool to set a more detailed budget.

Save money on essentials

You could save an average of £300 on your energy bill by changing tariffs or suppliers. Use Citizens Advice’s energy comparison tool to see if you can save.

Diarise the dates of annual contracts that are up for renewal, like your mobile phone or car insurance, and use a comparison site to see if you can get a cheaper deal.

Check you’re claiming the right benefits

If you have a family or are married, check if you can apply for working tax credits or marriage tax allowance on gov.co.uk

If you live alone, you may be entitled to a discount on your council tax bill.

If you claim benefits, visit the Citizens Advice website to check if you are eligible for discounts on your water or energy bills.

Start saving

Start saving if you can – it doesn’t matter if it’s 50p or £5 a week, every penny will help improve your finances.

Saving is an important part of everyday finances, giving you a buffer for emergencies, helping you buy bigger items and giving you more financial security for the future.

Keep tabs on your overdraft

Sign up to free text alerts from your bank so you know when you’re close to going into your overdraft. Then make adjustments to your spending if you can.

Be choosey about your borrowing

If you need to borrow money, it’s important to know that there are different offers with credit cards and loans, from free balance transfers to paying no interest for the first few months.

Get your debts in order

If you can’t pay all your debts at once, it’s important to prioritise. Rent or mortgage and council tax are more important than credit card debts for example, as the consequences can be more serious if you don’t pay. Find out how to prioritise on the Citizens Advice website or contact your nearest service for help.

Invest in your future

Pensions are a great way to save for the future and are also good value, as your contributions are topped up your employer and the government.

If you’re eligible for  auto-enrolment, consider paying more than just the minimum.

Those who are self employed can still set up their own pension but make sure it’s with a regulated company.

If you’re over 50 and have a defined contribution pension you can get free a Pension Wise appointment to learn more about taking your pension.

Autumn Statement


The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, will deliver the Autumn Statement today. He is expected to announce a ban on letting agents and our response welcoming this move is covered by the BBC and FT online.
Data from Citizens Advice showing that letting agents charge £337 on average is also covered extensively across news outlets.
We will also be issuing a follow-up statement later on today.