Get help applying for Universal Credit
Our Help to Claim service can support you in the early stages of your Universal Credit claim, from an application, through to your first payment.
Help to Claim is a dedicated service from Citizens Advice. It’s free, independent and confidential. Our trained advisers can help with things like how to gather evidence for your application or how to prepare for your work coach appointment.
Call us for free: 0800 144 8 444
You can get help at the following locations:
- West Bromwich Job Centre Tues and Thurs 9am – 1.30pm
- Oldbury Job Centre Mon and Tues 9am – 1.30pm
- Smethwick Job Centre (by appointment only) Weds 10am – 1.30pm and Fri 9am – 1.30pm
- Tipton Job Centre Mon and Thurs 9am – 1.30pm
- Halesowen Job Centre Mon 9am – 1.30pm
- Walsall Bayard House Mon 9am – 1.30pm
- Bilston Job Centre Mon 9am – 1.30pm
- Perry Barr Job Centre Tues 9am – 1.30pm
- Selly Oak Job Centre Weds 10am – 1.30pm
- Handsworth Job Centre Thurs 9am – 1.30pm
For online advice or to chat live to an adviser, please visit: citizensadvice.org.uk/helptoclaim
We may also be able to see claimants at the Citizens Advice office in West Bromwich during the opening times. Help and support is based on when advisers are available. Just drop-in and speak to reception.
If you’re a local organisation working with people who need to help to apply for Universal Credit you can get in touch with the Help to Claim Supervisor – Rachael Walker (email@example.com) to find out how you can signpost or refer people to our service. You can also use this email address to book appointments at our Cradley Heath Citizens Advice office.
Published: 24 August 2018
Private renters in England who formally complain about issues such as damp and mould in their home have an almost one-in-two (46%) chance of being issued an eviction notice within 6 months, according to a new report – Touch and go – released today by Citizens Advice.
The charity estimates this has affected about 141,000 tenants since laws attempting to ban revenge evictions were introduced in 2015.
It comes as the government’s consultation on introducing minimum three-year tenancies in the private rented sector closes this Sunday.
The research found complaining dramatically increases a renter’s chance of getting an eviction notice when compared to people who do not complain.
Tenants who had received a section 21 “no-fault eviction” notice were:
Twice as likely to have complained to their landlord
Five times more likely to have gone to their local authority
Eight times more likely to have complained to a redress scheme
The charity argues the figures prove 2015 laws designed to prevent families and other tenants in the private rented sector from being evicted after raising a complaint have not worked.
The research includes a unique survey of council Environmental Health Officers (EHO) that found 3 in every 4 EHOs saw tenants receive a no-fault eviction after complaining last year. Of the officers who had been in their role before the 2015 Act was passed, 90% said they have not seen a drop in revenge evictions.
With the private rented sector being the second most common tenure in England with 4.7 million households – including 1.7 million families with dependent children – Citizens Advice is calling for laws around tenant security to be significantly strengthened.
Advisers from the charity helped one mum who moved into a house with her husband and two children and went to her council because a leak in the home was causing her partner’s health to deteriorate. One day before an Environmental Health inspection was due to take place, she was issued a section 21 eviction notice.
The charity backs the government’s proposals for minimum 3-year tenancies, but is concerned that potential loopholes may undermine protections that longer tenancies provide.
Citizens Advice is calling for 3-year tenancies to be written into law, and for these tenancies to include limits on rent rises to prevent landlords from effectively evicting tenants through pricing them out, no break clause at six months, and allowing tenants to leave contracts early if the landlord doesn’t uphold legal responsibilities.
The charity also believes if 3-year tenancies are agreed, the government should then review grounds for section 8 evictions – normally used when tenants are antisocial or fail to pay rent – to allow landlords to recover the property if they choose to sell up.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“The chance of a family being evicted from their home for complaining about a problem shouldn’t carry the same odds as the toss of a coin.
“Those living in substandard properties must have greater protection against eviction when they complain.
“Our report shows that well-intentioned laws created to put an end to revenge evictions have not worked, and a new fix is needed.
“There are serious question marks over the existence of a power that allows landlords to unilaterally evict tenants without reason – known as section 21.
“While Government plans for minimum 3-year tenancies is a step in the right direction, these changes must be strong enough to genuinely prevent revenge evictions once and for all.”
Joining the dots around mental health
Recently we had a referral from the Early Intervention Service for a client with severe mental health problem, who is due to be sectioned to Mental Health again. To many the issue would be a straightforward one, but because of the client’s mental health issues it became more complex.
The client had a court fine for travelling on London train without a valid ticket in early part of the year 2017. Since the incident, the client was sectioned under the Mental Health Act twice and he was detained in the hospital. The court sent the correspondence to client’s address but he was unable to deal with these due to him be away from home. The account was passed to the court bailiff who gained entry to client’s property.
In year 2018, a year after the incident, the Money Advice Caseworker successfully had the account returned from the bailiff to the court and with evidence provided by the client and his support worker the Money Advice Caseworker convinced the Judge to consider client’s circumstances since the time of the incident and write off the court fine.
It takes patience and understanding and working well with our partners to join the dots and make sure the outcome is a good one.
Published: 27 October 2017
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.
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.
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
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
Published: 9 January 2017
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:
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 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.
Published: 15 November 2016
Citizens Advice has today said that large suppliers should hold off raising standard tariff rates this winter, following price freezes announced by British Gas and SSE. …Continue Reading
Published: 15 November 2016
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.
Published: 15 November 2016
Earlier this year three of our staff took part in ‘Pretty Muddy’ a fun run with a difference.
The main point of the event is to raise money for cancer research …Continue Reading