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Category: Universal Credit

Universal Credit

Universal Credit has replaced many benefits such as Housing Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Jobseeker’s Allowance (ESA). If you have recently been told that you need to make a claim for Universal Credit then we can help you.

We can:

  • Find what you need
  • Help you start, manage and submit a claim
  • Point you in the right direction if you need any further help

You can get help from us in a number of ways. You can call our Help to Claim Advice Line number:

0800 144 8444

You can use the Help to Claim web chat by clicking on this link and using the Talk to an Adviser box at the bottom of the screen.

If you would prefer to sit down with an adviser then you can meet with one of our Help to Claim advisers who are based in your local Jobcentre.

  • West Bromwich Job Centre Mon, Tues Thurs and Fri 9am – 1.00pm and Weds 10am – 1.00pm
  • Oldbury Jobcentre Mon, Tues Thurs and Fri 9am – 1.00pm and Weds 10am – 1.00pm
  • Smethwick Jobcentre (by appointment only) Tues Thurs and Fri 9am – 1.00pm and Weds 10am – 1.00pm. Mon drop-in service 9am – 1.00pm
  • Tipton Jobcentre Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri 9am – 1.00pm and Weds 9am – 1.00pm
  • Halesowen Jobcentre Mon 9am – 1.00pm and Weds 10am – 1.00pm
  • Walsall Bayard House Mon, Tues and Fri 9am – 1.00pm
  • Bilston Jobcentre Mon 9am – 1.00pm and Weds 10am-1.00pm
  • Perry Barr Jobcentre Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri 9am – 1.00pm and Weds 10am – 1.00pm
  • Selly Oak Jobcentre Mon, Tues and Thurs 9am – 1.00pm
  • Handsworth Jobcentre Mon, Thurs 9am – 1.00pm and Wed 10am – 1.00pm
  • Broad Street Jobcentre Mon, Tue, Fri 9am – 1.00pm and Weds 10am – 1.00pm
  • Dudley Jobcentre Thurs 9am – 1.00pm

If you just want a bit of information, relating to Universal Credit then the Citizens Advice website has lots of information about how you can make a claim.

Updated: 04/12/2019



Meet the Help To Claim Team

My name is Yoto and I started as an HTC Adviser in April 2019. I am very proud to work for Citizens Advice Sandwell as well as to be part of this amazing team. Helping people is very rewarding so I enjoy every minute here

Hi, my name is Emma and I started working for Help to Claim in March 2019. I enjoy my role as I am able to offer people the support and advice they need to help improve their situation. It’s always nice to meet new people and know you have had a positive impact on their lives

Hi, I am Aaron. I started at Citizens Advice Sandwell as a generalist volunteer in 2017, I then started working as a Help to Claim adviser in February 2019. I am currently working as the Best Practice Lead for the Black Country District as part of the Help to Claim service. My role is to gather local insight into how the roll-out of Universal Credit is working across the district and highlight any prevalent issues faced by local Citizens Advice and external stakeholders. Another part of my role is to part-take in local and national research projects into various aspects of Universal Credit and the Help to Claim service, these findings are shared with the Department for Work and Pensions and National Citizens Advice

Hi, I’m Kevin. I have been with HTC for nearly a year and I was also previously a generalist adviser for 1 year. I enjoy the role of HTC because it gives me the chance to help people from the community and also my chance to give back. 

Hi, my name is Sam. I have been an HTC adviser since July 2019. I started out as a volunteer for Citizens Advice and have now moved into a paid role with the HTC team. I take great pride in the service we provide to clients some of which are in desperate need of assistance. To see that I can help to solve their issues gives me a great sense of satisfaction and pride in the work this team completes. I enjoy working with a helpful and supportive team in which we all come together and get the best possible results for our clients. 

My name is Liam. I have worked for HTC Sandwell since January 2019. My favorite part of this role is supporting our clients on a day to day basis. Ensuring they’re aware of their rights and are aware of all the support we can offer. It is incredibly gratifying when a client thanks you for helping them to sort their issues and knowing that they leave feeling more confident and assured. 

Hi, I’m Oran. I’ve been working with the Help to Claim since July 2019. I love empowering clients and ensuring that they get the support that they’re entitled to. The best thing about this is seeing their relief when they understand that they have a way through at least some of their issues

I have been with the HTC team since January 2019. I enjoy working for the HTC team because it gives me the satisfaction with helping others, we are based at jobcentres you can see daily people struggling with UC, and being present at job centres it just helps the client to feel at ease with our support. Also, the HTC team are like my second family, we support & look out for each other as and when needed. 

I joined Citizens Advice – Help to Claim team in June 2020.  I’m excited to be supporting our clients with information, advice, and guidance on any Universal Credit queries and I’m also looking forward to working with external organisations and the team here in Sandwell.

My name’s Kit and I’ve been with the Help to Claim team at Citizens Advice since June 2020. I am looking forward to helping clients and making a difference to those who need it most.

My name is Richard and I am one of the new Help to Claim Advisers for CA Sandwell. Before this, I was a volunteer Generalist Adviser at the Cradley Heath locality for almost 2 years, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I have been fortunate enough to move into a more specialist advisory role on Universal Credit, which has allowed me to continue helping some of the most vulnerable people in society.

My name is Rachael and I am the Help to Claim Supervisor/Manager. I have worked for CA Sandwell for 12 years and have been in this role since January 2019. I am passionate about helping people and providing the highest quality service possible. 

Hi, my name is Leigh. In June 2020, I transferred from the Click Start team as a Project Manager to manage the Help to Claim team. I am enjoying learning in greater depth what the team does and I look forward to working with them moving forward.

Blog – 06/07/20

Talking about Money – Our super Six Tips

 We are urging the UK to start talking about money now to avoid harm to people’s overall wellbeing. 

47 million adults across the UK don’t find it easier to talk money or don’t discuss at all

Look at these facts if you need anymore evidence to encourage people to

Talk about Money

Nine in ten people still do not find it easier to talk about finances during the Covid-19 pandemic or do not discuss money with anyone at all

 Those who find having money conversations harder due to Covid-19 say the reason they avoid them is because their financial situation causes them anxiety or stress and they don’t want to make others worry about them 

Coping with new circumstances is a barrier to talking about money. People claiming benefits or anticipating they will need to in the next 6 months due to Covid-19 are almost three times more likely to find having money conversations harder than the UK average.

So far, only 1 in 6 people  say they have asked others about their financial situation because they are worried about them, suggesting there could be an opportunity for family and friends to step up in acting as money supporters for their loved ones.

However, of the minority of people who said they have found it easier to talk about their finances as a result of Covid-19, nearly a third  say they do it because they feel better after discussing financial concerns.

 As we rethink how we live our everyday lives in the wake of Covid-19, this is an opportunity for people to start opening up about money matters. Whether that’s with an expert, or the people closest to you, talking is a great first step towards managing financial issues and can often make things feel less daunting.

Our Super Six Tips  for people to enable them to open up about their money worries during the pandemic:

  • Choose who you open up to – Try not to have preconceptions about who you should have these conversations with. Some people might think these are issues to keep in the family but actually some people might find it easier to speak to a professional or a colleague, or someone who may not be directly impacted by your money worries, like a friend or professional.
  • Create a comfortable setting – It will help if you feel as comfortable as possible and your environment can hugely affect this. You might feel more at ease chatting in a kitchen setting, taking in some fresh air as you go for a walk or at your dining room table so you can lay out and refer to relevant papers or budgets. Ensure you won’t be interrupted as this could interfere with your train of thought; put your phones on silent or if you have kids, wait till they’re asleep.
  • Prepare how you’re going to kick it off – Sometimes the hardest part of having a conversation is knowing how to start it. Once you’re past the first few seconds, you might be surprised by how easily the conversation flows. Build confidence by practising your opening sentence; something as simple as, “I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?” or “‘I’d like to talk to you about [blank], but first I’d like to get your point of view” can really help.
  • Listen as well as talk – Try to make sure you go into the discussion with an open mind, being prepared to take in the other person’s point of view. Listen to each other as much as possible. Hearing one another’s standpoint in a respectful manner can make the difference between having a constructive conversation versus an unproductive argument.
  • Tie into the news agenda – Covid-19 is dominating news channels and will do for the foreseeable future as new schemes are announced and news on the financial effects are reported. If you see a news bulletin relevant to your situation, use this as a springboard to initiate a conversation – it’s a useful way to break the ice and remember many people are in the same boat right now.
  • Check in with friends and family – Once you’ve made the first step to opening up about your financial worries, you can help others to do the same. Never force someone into a conversation as they’ll only be defensive, but do remind them you’re here to chat if they need support, in person or on a call.

Janet Mylchreest July 2020

Janet’s Weekly Blog – 01/06/20

Practicing Kindness

It was Mental Health Awareness week last week and “practicing kindness “ was the overall theme for this year’s campaign and it got me thinking about what that meant to me and my family.

It’s been proved that practicing kindness, both to others and ourselves, can be a powerful way to nurture good mental health.

Kindness is simple but not always easy, especially after a long day, or during a health crisis such as the one we’re facing now

These resources may be able to give you ideas about how to bring more kindness to those around you and yourself.

Check out some of these websites there really is some good ideas, I have tried quite a few from “upgrading tatty items “ to “taking time out “

Kindness and compassion for yourself

                  Kindness and compassion for others

If you need more, help is available – try the in-depth resources on our coronavirus support page, or you can call Samaritans for free at any time on 116 123.

Janet Mylchreest 01/06/20

Janet’s weekly Blog – 11/05/20

Customer Support Standards

Pre-pandemic, we knew that people with mental health problems struggled to manage their financial wellbeing and access essential services, including financial services, water, energy, and telecoms problems and could be exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis.  

People with pre-existing mental health problems risk their condition deteriorating as they navigate challenges without much-needed help from loved ones or professionals.

Growing numbers of people start to experience poor mental health, distress and anxiety, which could in turn lead to struggles managing money and a fear of contacting essential service providers.

Many will struggle with the double whammy of reduced income and higher bills from being at home more.

To support essential service providers and their front-line staff, The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute have put together a list of eight urgent standards that organisations can adopt right now 

Eight standards that firms can adopt  to support the growing number of customers in distress

Just a few thought of mine

  • not disconnecting people from essential services writing to customers to let them know what support is available 
  • making it easier to get in touch remotely by increasing webchat capacity 
  • and offering callbacks
  • telling customers on websites and telephone on-hold messages, things like, which documents they’ll need, what questions might be asked, how else people can get in touch and what the likely wait time is 
  • breaking down information into manageable sections and waiting while customers write it down
  • helping customers stay in control of their spending by having easy to use spending caps or blocks on certain types of spending
  • signposting to additional support services

Please take a look at the The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (link above) and see if there is anything you can use to help the people you care for.

Janets Weekly Blog – 27/04/20

Janets Weekly Blog – 27/04/20

Staying happy, healthy and safe- Missing Friends and Family Members

I have shared some great ideas that I saw on a Go Play Sandwell document 

At the moment, things might feel very strange; you might be really missing seeing and being with your friends or family members who don’t live with you. But by staying safe at home, we can keep our family and friends safe too. If you are missing your friends and family, some of the ideas below might help you to stay in touch.

IdeaI have had a go at this
Make a list of your favourite friends and family phone numbers,
email addresses, postal addresses. 

Sharing is caring: remember to tell someone that you live with
about how you feel.

Write a letter, poem or rap to a friend or a family member telling
them why they are a good friend/relative to you and what you
miss most about not being able to spend time with them.
You could also share your favourite memories of times you
spent together. Parents can post letters when they do an
essential shop.

Plan a list of activities that you want to do with your friends
when you can see each other again.

Create a collage of photos of your friends and families; if you
don’t have any photos draw them instead! 

Arrange to watch things on TV or online with your friends and
then call them to chat about what you thought of it on phone
or gaming device. 

Set up a weekly challenge (remember to stay safe online!) 
Create a list of activities between your friends and yourselves.
Share the photos and vote for the best response. Some
examples could includeA weekly bake-off challenge and then
post pictures of your efforts. -A garden/home treasure hunt.
Have a start-stop time and post pictures of the things you have
found Have an online karaoke party Hold a book club and
choose one book to read each week. Think of one question
each about the book and have an online discussion. 
 Choose a time to all visit an online zoo and then talk to one
another about your experience. 

Keep a journal: just a sentence or a picture a day about how
you feel, what you did so you can share it with friends or
family later.

Sharing memories about my family start a family tree; this
is a great way to share memories of our family members,
have a look at family photos (both digital and physical).  
Make a list of your family members and all come up with
a positive thing about them and write it next to their name.
You can do this with your friends on social media too. Make
a keepsake box of tickets, receipts, photos, trinkets – things
that make memories of your family member.  Draw a
picture with yourself in the middle and your family
members around you write a positive thing that links
you to each member. 

Choose a day to have a family picnic in the garden or a
carpet picnic in the house and ask your other family
members to do the same and share the fun on your video phones.

Janets Blog

Something a little more fun this week a Quiz –  Your ATTITUDES TO CASH 

Read each situation and mark which option, A to E most applies to you  

Have a Go ! – it’s a fun way to THINK about Money and if done with a  family member a great opportunity to TALK about Money.

SituationABCDE
What do you think about money ?You never think about itYou get by You feel that you shouldmanage it betterYou’re pretty good at managing itPeople ask you for advice
Saving money Is …Something others doImpossibleSomething you aim to doAn important part of looking after your moneyThe whole point to life
Your attitude to retirement savings is Your not saving – you’re too youngYou keep thinking about it but don’t startYou have started a pensionYou’re worked out how much you need to saveYou try to save as much as you can
When shopping you like to …Buy what you fancyHave an idea of what you want but get side trackedMake a list but don’t stick to itMake a list and stick to itBuy whatever is cheapest
What is your main aim in life when it comes to money ?Don’t really have oneBuy whatever you wantHave enough to treat yourself regularlyKnow what’s coming in and going out regularlySave as much as possible

Answers

Mostly A –  You’re a debt collectors dream

You could be in trouble. If you carry on with this carefree approach you may find you end up in debt . Learn some simple tips for looking after your money.

Mostly B –  Your a day to day debtor

You live for today. You never know quite where you are with your cash. A little bit of planning could make your life a lot simpler.

 Mostly C –  You’re a smart spender

You are reasonably in control, but would like a little more help. You just need to keep a closer track of your cash.

Mostly D –  You’re a careful controller

You plan for every penny and the unexpected will not worry you.

Mostly E –  You’re a squirrel

You love saving – try to learn to spend some today rather than just save for 

tomorrow. 

For some help and guidance go to our favourite website for information and tips on Budgeting & Saving  https://sandwell.betteroff.org.uk/

Janet’s Blog

To help our financial well being

Here’s a list of things that can really help and I feel a must in these difficult times, I have called it our FAB FOUR

1.TALK ABOUT MONEY

2.MAKE A BUDGET 

3.CHECK YOUR POLICIES 

4.SPEAK TO CREDITORS

1. Talk about Money 

How do we start conversations about money, it’s a difficult one and one many of us shy away from

Take a deep breath and ASK!

It’s good to Talk with someone we trust.

If you know people you think may be struggling financially, make time to call to check in on them

There are some Tips on Talking about money on the Money Advice Service website

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/talking-about-money

And a pdf doc that may bemaybe good to distribute

https://www.capitalmass.org.uk/perch/resources/files/difficultconversations-talkingaboutmoney.pd

2. Make a Budget

It’s always a good idea to do a budget but at this difficult time we all should all do an “emergency budget” whether that’s a full spreadsheet or on the back of an envelope, or one of our online planners, anything is better than nothing.

It’s not always much fun but you will be pleased you did it once it’s all over

 This is what a colleague sent me earlier this week   ………………..

“From our own situations, we are having to shop and support both sets of elderly parents and have had to use more expensive corner shops to get their shopping as the supermarkets were not safe to go near,  I’m sure there’ll be others like us doing the same which will have a massive impact on budgets.”

There are some great online budget planners which work really well and in this time of home curfews  perhaps we have a little more time to have a go!

Go to our favourite website, https://sandwell.betteroff.org.uk/

CLICK on Get Help & Advice (bottom right ) then CLICK on Debt Advice and Budgeting then Budget Planners – Take your pick and have a go !

3. Check your Insurance policies

Check whether you have insurance policies that would cover your mortgage payments or replace some of your income. For example:

  • Payment protection insurance
  • Mortgage payment protection insurance
  • Accident, sickness and unemployment insurance

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/coronavirus-and-your-money#step-2-check-your-insurance-policies

4. Talk to your creditors if you think you might miss a payment

Once you’ve done your budget if you think you’re going to struggle to pay essential bills make sure you talk to the people you owe money to before it becomes a problem.

Take a look at our website some good advice

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/if-you-cant-pay-your-bills-because-of-coronavirus

Good Luck

Janet April 2020

Covid-19 SCAMS

2.Newsletter   Covid-19 SCAMS

SCAMS    SCAMS SCAMS     SCAMS SCAMS SCAMS     SCAMS SCAMS SCAMS

We recognise that at this time it may be one of increased financial pressure for most people.

Now that the majority of the country will be working from home, it gives scammers a new opportunity to think of ingenious ways to gain access to data. We cannot stress enough the importance it is to remain vigilant at these times. If you receive a call you’re not expecting to terminate it immediately. If you receive an email that looks suspicious don’t click on any links or attachments.

Take a look and see what you can share with the people you care for, friends, family & colleagues.

Most importantly stay safe …. and some tools to help…..

1.  Check if something is an online Scam  – Have a go at the On-Line Scams Helper.https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/check-if-something-might-be-a-scam 

2. Scams – Key facts and all the data https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lTnWQ6LR0wTT3YqJyYW4qEnc3D5meaBZ3J9M19HdVHo/edit

3. Get help with online – Find out how to contact our Scams Helpline Service for advice

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ScamsAction/

4. Reporting a Scam – Action Fraud can get the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to investigate scams. They’ll also give you a crime reference number, which can be helpful if you need to tell your bank you’ve been scammed. Read our advice on trying to get your money back after a scam.

It’s quickest to report a scam to Action Fraud online, but you can also report the scam by phone.

Action Fraud Telephone: 0300 123 2040

Have a look at this latest SCAM WARNING from ActionFraud

 If you want to read more follow the link 

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/alert/coronavirus-related-fraud-reports

Janet 

March 2020

Janet’s Blog

Please check out  Coronavirus and what it means to you 

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you/

There is some really useful information and links to some key questions that might be concerning you during this difficult time…

Check if something is a SCAM – lots of info plus an On-line Scam Helper

Staying at Home – you know what to do but just a reminder of govt.advice

Help you can get – the govt. has announced other ways of helping people

If you are extremely vulnerable because of a medical condition – info about shielding

Paying your Bills – check what help you can get and benefit entitlements

Going to Work – what is the govt.Job Retention Scheme

Taking your Children to School – check if you are a critical worker

If you cannot pay your Rent – what help is out there

If you are planning to travel abroad – what if your package holiday is canceled

And a lot more helpful information too