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Category: Blog

We’re Recruiting!

JOB VACANCIES
We are seeking to recruit:

1.5 (WTE) Help to Claim Advisers – Help to Claim Service

  • Hours: 37 hours full time
  • 18.5 hours part time
  • Salary: £18,360 (pro- rata)
  • Contract: Permanent (funding confirmed until March 2020) 
  • Closing date: July 8th 2019 at 5PM
  • Interview date: July 16th  2019

Background:

Citizens Advice presently deliver a new service called “Universal Support – Help to Claim” which offers end-to-end support to help people make a new Universal Credit claim and be ready for when their first payment arrives.

We are looking for enthusiastic and motivated people, who have a good knowledge of the welfare and benefits system and excellent customer care skills,  to join our team.

You will be working directly with people who are submitting Universal Credit claims and you will provide support with form filling, evidence checking, improving digital skills and simple budgeting and payments. 

You don’t need a formal qualification, as training will be provided, however you will need a good standard of English, significant level of  IT skills and a high degree of accuracy when supporting clients. 

You will spend time working in the phone/web-chat team and local Job Centres across Sandwell and surrounding areas. 

These are exciting opportunities to be a part of a great charity and an innovative project.

For an Application Pack or more information (CVs not accepted) 

please email: recruitment@citizensadvicesandwell.org.uk

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

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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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