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Category: Universal Credit

Coronavirus Update

Due to Coronavirus we are sorry to announce that we will not be able to provide an ‘open door’ drop-in service until further notice

This has been a hard decision to take, but the wellbeing of staff, volunteers and clients come first.

You will still be able to get advice from us:

Sandwell Advice Line: 0300 330 9017

Help To Claim Universal Credit: 0800 144 8444

Webchat: www.citizensadvicesandwell.org.uk

The Council also has useful information if you go to this website http://www.sandwell.gov.uk/info/200347/resilient_residents.

or you can email your questions here https://citizensadvicesandwell.org.uk/contact-us/

We will provide updates on our, Website, Facebook page, and Twitter.

Thank you.

Settling Well

Settling Well is a partnership between Citizens Advice Sandwell and Brushstrokes, helping newcomers to settle well in Sandwell, becoming economically and socially active and starting to contribute to the life of their local community.

The project is funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Meet the Team!

Who can receive support?

Sandwell residents who have newly arrived in the UK in the last 2 years. 
Support will not be available through the project for asylum seekers or individuals who are in the UK without leave to remain. 

What support can we provide?

Our support workers known as Community Navigators will deliver very practical advice and hands-on support to newcomers, dealing with their immediate issues and helping them to settle more permanently in Sandwell:

  • Dealing with immediate problems, through advice on housing, benefits
  • Support to access immigration advice
  • “Settling Well” orientation to their new community. This will include accompanying clients to appointments, GP and dentist registration, familiarisation with appropriate use of health services, awareness of housing rights and responsibilities, familiarisation with local waste disposal arrangements
  • Support to access English classes
  • Linking into local activities in the communities where the migrants settle, bringing resident communities and migrants together.

Our approach – flexible and joined up preventative advice and support, tailored to meet the needs of each client.

To make a referral

You can contact us…

Email: settlingwell@citizensadvicesandwell.org.uk

Telephone: 0121 553 6431 (Option 5)

Meet the Settling Well Team

Settling Well Team

My name is Illa Patel; I work for Citizens Advice Sandwell on the Settling Well Project. I speak two Languages English and Gujarati and I am very excited to be part of this new project especially as it is helping the local community. I have always worked with the general public in my previous job as a Market Researcher and as an Interpreter. My hobbies are watching my local football team West Bromwich Albion, Zumba, and reading.

My name is Valentina Merlini. I am originally from Italy and I moved to the UK in 2015. I have lived in Sandwell for the last 4 years, and worked in Care and Support across different settings, getting to know services available in the area. I previously volunteered in the Community Sector, being involved in Employment Support projects and in English learning activities for migrants and newcomers.

I get great satisfaction from giving support and encouragement to people experiencing difficulties, difficulties similar to the ones that I encountered when I first arrived in the UK. I enjoy being busy playing various roles which involve continuous learning and development, therefore I wish that I can help my future clients improve their prospects and fulfill their potential. I feel happy when I see former clients that have in their journey towards settling well and feeling at home in this community. They have more confidence about their chances in life and more positive about their future.

My name is Syeda Bibi I was born and brought up in Sandwell From an early age I have been supporting community members who have language barriers to access the services they need. This includes help with writing forms, making calls or registering with schools, banks doctors, etc. I then I started helping people with immigration support either to help families come from abroad or existing members settling in the UK. This included access to ESOL classes and other activities that they were not aware of. It makes me feel good to help someone in need and that my work is valued.

Hello, my name is Rosa Nebaj, I work for Citizens Advice Sandwell for the Settling Well Project as a Community Navigator. I am an enthusiastic and resourceful person who loves working in the community. I am fluent in Arabic and speak good Dutch and Anuak which will be very useful when supporting newcomers in Sandwell. You are more than welcome to contact us if you need our help. .

My name is Marta Sobilo. I am Polish and I work for Citizens Advice Sandwell as a Settling Well Community Navigator. I am bilingual – I speak Polish and English. I used to help within my community with day-to-day issues such as filling forms or accessing public services. In this project, I will be supporting newcomers with settling well in the Sandwell area

Hi, my name is Shanara Begum, I am a Community Navigator, I speak English and Bengali and my hobbies include going to the cinema and reading lots of books! I have lived in Sandwell all my life, I have been working and also attending community activities, which are a great part of my life. It is really rewarding when you help people

Hello, My name is Hajar; I speak both Farsi & English. My motto is ’working from the heart’ I love being busy and helping others and am looking forward to supporting newcomers to Sandwell. If you need any help to settle in Sandwell feel free to contact us.

Click Start Good News Story: Illa

Illa engaged with Click Start in January 2019, wanting to improve her confidence online to better enable her to apply for jobs, complete cover letters, and use her email account.

Illa wanted to return to work as quickly as possible and after attending several sessions was successful in gaining voluntary work as an interpreter. Due to Illa being interested in working with the public she was signposted to attend Community Support Training with Citizens Advice Sandwell, which aimed to equip trainees with the skills needed for various community engagement roles.

This gave Illa the opportunity to apply for a Community Navigator role with Citizens Advice Sandwell, on the new Settling Well project. In this role Illa will utilise her multilingual skills to deliver practical advice and hands on support to migrants, such as helping register their children at local schools and doctors, and support adults in finding groups to meet new people and access learning opportunities.

Engagement with Click Start has therefore not only helped Illa improve her confidence online but also provided the opportunity for her to take part in training which resulted in her employment with the organisation.

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 Mon, Tues and Thurs 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-Tues 9am – 1pm
  • Bilston Jobcentre Mon 9am – 1pm
  • Perry Barr Jobcentre Mon and Tues 9am – 1pm
  • Selly Oak Jobcentre Mon and Tues 9am – 1pm
  • Handsworth Jobcentre Thurs 9am – 1pm
  • Broad Street Jobcentre Fri 9am – 1pm
  • Dudley Jobcentre Thurs 9.30am – 1pm
  • Jubilee Park Community Centre Thurs 9am – 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.”

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.