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Help to Claim – Universal Credit


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 Jobcentre Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri 9am – 1pm and Wed 10am – 1pm
  • Oldbury Jobcentre Mon, Tues and Thurs 9am – 1pm and Weds 10am – 1pm
  • Smethwick Jobcentre (by appointment only) Tues, Thurs and Fri 9am – 1pm and Weds 10am – 1pm
  • Tipton Jobcentre Mon, Thurs and Fri 9am – 1pm and Weds 10am – 1pm
  • Halesowen Jobcentre Mon 9am – 1pm
  • Walsall Bayard House Mon 9am – 1pm
  • Bilston Jobcentre Mon 9am – 1pm
  • Perry Barr Jobcentre Mon and Tues 9am – 1pm and Weds 10am – 1pm
  • Selly Oak Jobcentre Mon and Tues 9am – 1pm
  • Handsworth Jobcentre Weds 10am – 1pm and Thurs 9am – 1pm
  • Broad Street Jobcentre Tues and Fri 9am – 1pm
  • Dudley Jobcentre Thurs 9.30am – 1pm

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 (rachael.walker@citizensadvicesandwell.org.uk) 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.

Last updated: 5th July 2019


Cancelled Flights and lost luggage drove almost 700,000 views of Citizens Advice guidance last year.

Citizens Advice is offering travellers some guidance and advice when your holiday plans meet a problem.

There are also some top tips to help your holidays run more smoothly.

Lots of useful information on :

Delays

Cancellations

Strikes

Lost Luggage

Airline goes under

Follow the link below for more details and stories and those important Top Tips.

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/how-citizens-advice-works/media/press-releases/cancelled-flights-and-lost-luggage-drove-almost-700000-views-of-citizens-advice-guidance-in-last-year/?utm_source=start+the+week&utm_campaign=a5a4b84440-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_06_28_12_58_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_377248f79b-a5a4b84440-283964009&mc_cid=a5a4b84440&mc_eid=387657870e     

July 2019


Mobile Phone Users can now SWITCH providers with one simple text

Previously customers had to phone their mobile phone provider when they wanted to switch to a new firm.

They were then given a porting authorisation code ( PAC ) code to give to the new provider if they wanted to keep the same phone number 

But watchdog Ofcom says the need to SPEAK to a provider was one of the main factors stopping people from switching and customers often find themselves dealing with unwanted attempts by companies trying to persuade them to stay.

How to Switch by Text

1. Customers who want to SWITCH and keep their existing phone number text “PAC “ to 65075 to begin the process.

2. Their existing provider will respond by text within a minute.

3. They will be sent their switching code (PAC), which will be valid for 30 days.

4. The provider’s reply must also include important information about early termination charges or pay-as-you-go credit balances.

5. The customer then gives the code to their new provider and this company  must arrange for the SWITCH to be complete within one working day.

6. While most people want to keep their mobile phone number, about one in six do not. These customers can text “STAC” to 75075 to request a “service termination authorisation code.

July 2019



What is persistent debt?

Persistent debt applies to your credit card balance. If you’ve paid more in interest, charges and fees than you have repaid on your credit card balance over an 18-month period, you’ll be classified as being in persistent debt. Then your credit card provider has to get in touch with you to let you know and offer you help.

They also have to:

  • ask you to consider whether you can afford to repay more quickly
  • make you aware of the potential implications of continuing with low repayments which can include the possibility that your card could be suspended, and possible impacts on your credit file
  • let you know that if you cannot afford to repay more quickly, you can get in touch with them to discuss your circumstances so that they can help or, if necessary, you can get free debt advice.

I’m making minimum repayments, isn’t that enough?

Minimum repayments are set by credit card companies subject to minimum legal requirements. It’s the smallest amount the credit card company is happy to let you pay back per month. Paying only the minimum repayment over the short term can help you spread the cost of more expensive items. But minimum repayments long term become an expensive way to repay your debt.

Here’s the example in a table compared to paying back £150, £175 and £200 every month. These are worked out assuming you don’t spend any more using the credit card.

Repayment scheduleInterest paid in totalTotal paid backHow long it takes to repay the £5,000 loan
Minimum payment – First month £132.92, reducing every month after£7,277.84£12,277.8418 years 10 months
£150 every month, fixed£2,338.96£7,338.964 years 1 month
£175 every month, fixed£1,831.93£6,831.933 years 4 months
£200 every month, fixed£1,511.27£6,511.272 years 9 months

The easiest way to deal with being contacted by your bank or credit card company is to increase your repayment to a level that’s still affordable for you. Making small changes can save you hundreds or thousands of pounds.

Don’t think of it as a demand for money.

New rules mean credit card companies have to let you know when you could save money by changing how you’re paying back your credit card bill. It’s also a chance to look at your credit card balance and see if it’s costing you more than you want.

However, if you don’t do anything or haven’t sufficiently increased your repayments on your credit card after a further 18-month period, your credit card provider has to help you by offering ways of repaying more quickly, such as proposing a repayment plan.

If you don’t get in touch with them, can’t afford to repay your credit card debt faster or decline a repayment plan, you could have your credit card suspended.

 Always Good to Talk speak to your bank about the best option for you

Better off Forum Newsletter


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Energy Tool from Citizens Advice

Compare Domestic Energy Suppliers Customer Service

HOW GOOD IS YOUR ENERGY SUPPLIER? Citizens Advice launches new energy tool which ranks firms based on customer service

Price isn’t the only thing to think about when choosing an energy supplier. It might be worth choosing a supplier that gets the fewest complaints, or one that’s easy to contact – even if they’re a bit more expensive.

To help you make that choice, we’ve compared suppliers across 5 different categories and ranked them according to how good their customer service is.

We’ve given them an overall rating out of 5 – 1 being poor and 5 being excellent..We have measured Complaints, Ease of Contact, Bill clarity, Ease of switching and Switch guarantee to give an overall score.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We hope the tool will encourage suppliers to improve their level of customer service with customers now able to scrutinise their performance across a range of different service factors – from complaints to ease of switching “   Follow our link below

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/how-citizens-advice-works/citizens-advice-consumer-work/supplier-performance/energy-supplier-performance/compare-domestic-energy-suppliers-customer-service

BT Basic


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BT Basic is a low-cost service for people on low incomes who may otherwise find it difficult to afford a home phone line.

  • BT Basic (line rental and calls) costs £5.10 a month including a call allowance of £1.50.  
  • BT Basic + Broadband: line rental and broadband cost £9.95 a month including a call allowance of £1.50.
  • Monthly price cap.  BT Basic customers can now make as many calls as they like to local and national numbers (starting with 01, 02 and 03), UK mobile numbers (starting with 07) or 08 numbers and pay a maximum of £10 a month. This means that customers will not pay any more than £15.10 a month for line rental and calls (subject to fair use and keeping within the eligible call types for the call allowance and price cap). The £10 price cap is automatically given to all BT Basic customers. 
  • Option of monthly billing to help with budgeting.

Eligibility

To get BT Basic, applicants must be getting one of these means-tested benefits:

  • Income Support 
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pensions Credit (Guaranteed Credit) 
  • Employment and Support Allowance (Income related) 
  • Universal Credit (and on zero earnings).

Different benefits with similar names exist, so please check carefully.

To apply for BT Basic, customers just need to fill out a one-page form.  BT checks directly with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to confirm eligibility.

For more details on BT Basic, to understand the call types included within the call allowance, the price cap or the application process, go to  bt.com/btbasicdeal where you can also download a booklet on the scheme.

Eligible customers can get a BT Basic application form by calling 0800 085 7478.


Do I need a TV Licence?


2019

Do I need a TV Licence?

Live TV on any channel and BBC iPlayer

You need to be covered by a TV Licence to

  • watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV or live on an online TV service
  • download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer.

This applies to any provider you use and any device, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.

Pay for your TV Licence

A standard TV Licence costs £154.50. Find out about ways to pay. Find out about free, reduced fee and business licences below.

Find out if you need a Licence video

Watch our YouTube video to find out when you need a TV Licence.

Need to update the details on your current TV Licence?

Answers to your questions

What is live TV and when do I need a licence for it?

What about BBC iPlayer?

Don’t have a TV? You could still need a TV Licence for other devices.

Do I need a TV Licence to watch TV away from home?

For your home, business or organisation

For you and your home.

For your business or organisation.

You need a TV Licence if anyone on your premises watches or records live TV programmes on any channel, or downloads or watches BBC programmes on iPlayer, on devices provided by your business.

This applies to employees at their desks, in a canteen or staff area, and customers in waiting areas, shop floors or anywhere else. Find out more about licences for businesses or organisations.

Moving to the UK?

We’ve put together some useful tips to help you get organised if you are thinking of moving to the UK.

Think you don’t need a TV Licence?

  • No TV and not using a computer, laptop, phone or other device to watch live TV on any channel or any BBC programmes on iPlayer?
  • Empty property or unoccupied address?
  • Covered by another licence?

Please tell us if you think you don’t need a TV Licence.

If you still have questions take a look at TV Licensing FAQs where you can find all the answers in one place.

Complain and you’re out: Research confirms link between tenant complaints and revenge eviction


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


Joining the dots around mental health

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.

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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