Citizens Advice helps thousands of people with mental health problems in the Black Country

Released 13th July 2018

 

A new report from Citizens Advice has found non-health related issues, such as debt or housing, are taking up more time during mental health appointments compared to last year.

The number of people in the West Midlands with mental health problems who use Citizens Advice reached over 9,000 last year.

On average, people reporting mental health problems in the West Midlands needed advice with 5.3 issues.

8 in 10 practitioners surveyed by the charity said they had less time to deliver clinical care after being asked to assist with tasks like writing up debt management plans and contacting public service bodies.

A number of Citizens Advice run advice sessions in GP surgeries and hospitals to allow health professionals to focus on treatment, and help people tackle practical problems which can cause or contribute to their poor mental health.

Helen Child, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Wolverhampton, said:

“Practical problems, like debt, can often be more difficult to manage if you also have  mental health problems.

“This new research shows it’s too often mental health professionals who are spending appointment time helping patients with wider problems. We are here to provide  practical support for people with mental health problems in our community.”

 

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Citizens Advice Wolverhampton thanks volunteers for making huge difference to people’s lives

 

Release Date 7th June 2018

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is celebrating its volunteers who dedicate their time to solving people’s problems and making a difference to their lives.

Volunteers Week, which runs from 1-7 June, is themed volunteering for all and the charity wants to highlight the work of its team, which helps people in the community struggling with debt, housing, benefit and employment issues among other issues.

The 53 volunteers at Citizens Advice Wolverhampton give up 468 hours each week and last year helped 11,500 of people with 28,800 of problems.

The charity’s volunteers have played a crucial role ensuring people in Wolverhampton get the advice and support they need to get on with their lives.

Citizens Advice offers a wide range of voluntary roles including fundraising, advisers, administrators and trustees

Sarah started to volunteer at Citizens Advice Wolverhampton when she became unemployed.

Sarah – volunteers with Citizens Advice Wolverhampton

 

“I enjoyed using and updating my admin skills and everyone was very supportive and encouraging. It was a good experience as I felt I was still useful and contributing to society, also it was good for my confidence which was at a low ebb. I learned a lot about benefits, debt and housing, and the effect government decisions have on people’s lives.

I’m currently volunteering with the Bridges project and I love seeing people progress and gain confidence, as well as building new social and job-finding skills. I see a real difference in people’s lives as they experience and enjoy what Bridges offers. This has been a very positive experience for me; to feel part of a team which has such a positive impact on everyone involved. I’ve also taken courses such as ASDAN and First Aid as well as taking part in fabulous activities.

I also volunteer at Uplift. I really enjoy the variety and community feeling which underpins this project. There is always something to learn and to think about. I recently attended a PIP tribunal which gave me a real insight into the process and raised some interesting questions about the process. It is so satisfying to see how the drop-in means everyone can have some advice, signposting etc. Again, this makes a huge difference to people using the service, and the support given to every client makes a huge difference to quality of life, so this is a very fulfilling experience for me.

I realise how much I have gained since volunteering at CAW. My confidence has increased, so have my admin skills. I feel I have made friends and am valued. I have so many opportunities to learn and update skills too; I have definitely gained a lot through volunteering here.”

 

Helen Child, Chief Executive at Citizens Advice Wolverhampton said:

 

“Our volunteers make a huge difference to people’s lives.

“They give up their free time to help people in their community, who may be going through problems, to get back on their feet.

“Volunteering is for everybody and it brings its own rewards. It’s a great way to meet people and learn skills.

“If you’d like to help people in your area and can spare a few hours, we’d love to hear from you.”

 

Nationally, 23,000 Citizens Advice volunteers help provide support in 2,900 locations across England and Wales – helping 2.7 million people every year.

Thanks to the contribution volunteers play in local Citizens Advice, 2 out of every 3 clients have their problem solved and 4 out of 5 say the advice received improved their lives.

 

If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice Wolverhampton please visit our website:

https://www.citizensadvicewolverhampton.org.uk/volunteer-recruitment/

 

For more information contact:

Helen Child

Chief Officer

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton

Tel: 01902 572222, 07525 845068

Email:  helen.child@wolverhamptoncitizensadvice.com

 

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton thanks volunteers for making huge difference to people’s lives

 

Release Date 7th June 2018

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is celebrating its volunteers who dedicate their time to solving people’s problems and making a difference to their lives.

Volunteers Week, which runs from 1-7 June, is themed volunteering for all and the charity wants to highlight the work of its team, which helps people in the community struggling with debt, housing, benefit and employment issues among other issues.

The 53 volunteers at Citizens Advice Wolverhampton give up 468 hours each week and last year helped 11,500 of people with 28,800 of problems.

The charity’s volunteers have played a crucial role ensuring people in Wolverhampton get the advice and support they need to get on with their lives.

Citizens Advice offers a wide range of voluntary roles including fundraising, advisers, administrators and trustees

Sarah started to volunteer at Citizens Advice Wolverhampton when she became unemployed.

Sarah – volunteers with Citizens Advice Wolverhampton

 

“I enjoyed using and updating my admin skills and everyone was very supportive and encouraging. It was a good experience as I felt I was still useful and contributing to society, also it was good for my confidence which was at a low ebb. I learned a lot about benefits, debt and housing, and the effect government decisions have on people’s lives.

I’m currently volunteering with the Bridges project and I love seeing people progress and gain confidence, as well as building new social and job-finding skills. I see a real difference in people’s lives as they experience and enjoy what Bridges offers. This has been a very positive experience for me; to feel part of a team which has such a positive impact on everyone involved. I’ve also taken courses such as ASDAN and First Aid as well as taking part in fabulous activities.

I also volunteer at Uplift. I really enjoy the variety and community feeling which underpins this project. There is always something to learn and to think about. I recently attended a PIP tribunal which gave me a real insight into the process and raised some interesting questions about the process. It is so satisfying to see how the drop-in means everyone can have some advice, signposting etc. Again, this makes a huge difference to people using the service, and the support given to every client makes a huge difference to quality of life, so this is a very fulfilling experience for me.

I realise how much I have gained since volunteering at CAW. My confidence has increased, so have my admin skills. I feel I have made friends and am valued. I have so many opportunities to learn and update skills too; I have definitely gained a lot through volunteering here.”

 

Helen Child, Chief Executive at Citizens Advice Wolverhampton said:

 

“Our volunteers make a huge difference to people’s lives.

“They give up their free time to help people in their community, who may be going through problems, to get back on their feet.

“Volunteering is for everybody and it brings its own rewards. It’s a great way to meet people and learn skills.

“If you’d like to help people in your area and can spare a few hours, we’d love to hear from you.”

 

Nationally, 23,000 Citizens Advice volunteers help provide support in 2,900 locations across England and Wales – helping 2.7 million people every year.

Thanks to the contribution volunteers play in local Citizens Advice, 2 out of every 3 clients have their problem solved and 4 out of 5 say the advice received improved their lives.

 

If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice Wolverhampton please visit our website:

https://www.citizensadvicewolverhampton.org.uk/volunteer-recruitment/

 

For more information contact:

Helen Child

Chief Officer

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton

Tel: 01902 572222, 07525 845068

Email:  helen.child@wolverhamptoncitizensadvice.com

 

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton expects 31st of January to be year’s busiest day for debt advice

Released: 3rd January 2018
The last day of January is expected to be the busiest day of the year for people seeking help with their debts, according to Citizens Advice Wolverhampton.  

Analysis of national data from the past 12 months reveals that on 31 January 2017 Citizens Advice helped 2,800 people, 30 per cent above the daily average.  

This means one person sought help from Citizens Advice every 10 seconds.

30 January was the most popular day for seeking advice online, with twice as many page views as average for the rest of the year.

Locally, Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is expecting 200 people to seek advice on debt throughout the first month of the year.  In January 2017 they helped people manage over £720,000, and expect this year’s total to be higher.

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton provided assistance to people seeking help for a wide variety of debt concerns, including council tax and rent arrears, credit card debt and unsecured loans.

To help people kick off 2018 on a stronger financial footing, Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is sharing its six top tips to help people get their finances in order for the New Year.

 

Helen Child, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Wolverhampton, said:

“There is a surge in demand for our debt advice towards the second half of January.

“Christmas in particular can take a heavy toll on people already struggling to make their money last and leave them with a debt burden in the new year. But this needn’t become a crisis  –  problems can be taken care of if you seek advice early.

“The New Year is a good time to get on top of your debts, cut your costs or budget better. Citizens Advice can help you review your situation so you can make decisions that improve your financial security.”

For information and advice, contact Citizens Advice Wolverhampton on 03444 111 444 or drop in to 26 Snow Hill, Wolverhampton Monday-Thursday 9.30-2pm.

 

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton’s six top tips to sort out your debts.

  1. Work out how much you owe – Make a list of who you owe money to and add up how much you need to pay each month. If you don’t have your most recent statements, contact your creditor to find out what you owe.
  1. Prioritise your debts – Your rent or mortgage, energy and council tax are called priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. These should always be paid first. Separate these and work out how much you owe.
  1. Work out how much you can pay – Create a budget by adding up your essential living costs, such as food and housing, and taking away these from your income. Any money you have spare can be put towards your debts. Citizens Advice budgeting tool can help.
  1. Paying urgent debts – You may have several priority debts and can’t pay them all. Contact all your creditors to find out if you can negotiate on how much you pay, or when you pay them. Always pay first priority creditors who are taking action against you.
  1. Paying non-urgent debts – If you have any money left after paying priority debts, consider getting a free debt-management plan. You’ll make one monthly payment to the plan provider, who will handle paying your creditors. Or contact your creditors and offer them what you can afford to pay.
  1. If you can’t pay your debts – If you’ve got little or no money spare to pay your priority debts seek advice from us straight away.

 

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton calls on government to pause expansion of ‘deeply flawed’ Universal Credit before it hits Wolverhampton

Released: Monday 18th September 2017

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is warning that the expansion of Universal Credit is ‘a disaster waiting to happen’ and is calling on government to pause its plans before they affect the city.

New research from Citizens Advice reveals people it helps with money matters are more likely to be in the most serious types of debt – where you could lose your home or even face prison – if they are on Universal Credit than if they’re on one of the benefits it replaces.

Many people have already turned to Citizens Advice Wolverhampton for help with “live service” Universal Credit, a temporary version of the benefit available to people in the area with straightforward claims.

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton says the numbers struggling will grow rapidly from December, when “full service” arrives, meaning anyone who would previously have claimed one of the old benefits – such as tax credits or housing benefit- has to apply for Universal Credit.

By 2022 Universal Credit will affect 45,500 households across Wolverhampton.  Problems with Universal Credit, including the long wait for first payment, can not only leave people’s finances in tatters but also lead to more pressure on local services such as homelessness, health and social care.

Across the country 1 in 4 (28%) working age households will be claiming Universal Credit, more than half of which (54%) will be in employment. The benefit will also be claimed by more than half (52%) of all families with children in the UK and 6 in 10 (58%) households where an adult is disabled or has a long term health condition.

The charity is urging the government to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit until problems with the benefit are fixed and ensure support is in place to help people adapt as they move onto the new benefit.

It is also calling for action to ensure no one applying for Universal Credit waits longer than 6 weeks for an income, and that anyone who needs it gets a payment within 2 weeks that they do not need to repay.

One local man turned to Citizens Advice Wolverhampton for help when he moved from a live service area (where Universal Credit is already fully in place) to Wolverhampton.  Even though this should not have presented a problem, one claim was closed but he was unable to open a new claim.  As a result of a bureaucratic error, he had been without income for 8 weeks, and already owed two months’ rent.

Helen Child Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Wolverhampton said:

“Universal Credit is deeply flawed and expanding it in Wolverhampton is a disaster waiting to happen.

“We’re already helping many people across Wolverhampton who are having problems with Universal Credit, and we are concerned this will rise significantly from December. By 2022 it will affect huge numbers of households across the area.

“While Universal Credit is a good idea in principle the system as it stands now is not able to properly support those in the city who need it, and could even leave them worse off. That’s why we want the government to pause its plan for roll-out so it has time to fix the underlying problems and make sure that everyone has access to the support they need to adapt to the changes.

“Citizens Advice Wolverhampton helps thousands of people with benefit problems every year and anyone with a question or concern about Universal Credit should get in touch with us for help at the earliest chance.”

Universal Credit is a new benefit which helps people on a low income or not in work meet their living costs. It combines six benefits, including Housing Benefit and Working Tax Credit, into a single monthly payment.

At the moment in Wolverhampton it is only available to single jobseekers but from December parents, couples and people who can’t work because of their health who make a new claim will also receive it. But as it is due to be available to everyone in the area from October Citizens Advice Wolverhampton says it can help people get ready for the differences between Universal Credit and the benefits it replaces.

The three changes Citizens Advice Wolverhampton says people need to be aware of are:

  •     Universal Credit payments are made in arrears once at the end of the month, rather than being paid weekly or fortnightly.
  •     Payments will go straight into a claimant’s bank account. This means people may need to set up their own standing orders for expenses like rent if it was paid directly to their landlord under the old Housing Benefit system.
  •     New Universal Credit applications, and any change in your circumstances, need to be made online.

With people facing at least a 5 to 6 week wait for their first Universal Credit payment, Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is encouraging new Universal Credit claimants to apply for an advance payment if they’re concerned about meeting their living costs during this time.

Tactics of credit card lenders risk pushing people into debt problems, says Citizens Advice Wolverhampton

Released: Wednesday 30 August 2017

Tactics of credit card lenders risk pushing people into debt problems, says Citizens Advice Wolverhampton

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is warning that tactics used by credit card lenders are putting people at greater risk of long term debt problems.

Today (Wednesday 30 August 2017) national Citizens Advice launches a major new report on long term debt, which finds that 1 in 5 people who are struggling to pay off their credit cards have had their credit limit raised without them requesting it – risking pushing them into further debt.

The Stuck in debt report also found that people with credit card debts were more likely to get into long term debt than those with personal loans and were less able to pay their debt down. Only 60% of people struggling with credit card debt were able to reduce it over two years, compared to 72% of people struggling with a personal loan – with credit card borrowers paying off £449 over two years, compared to a drop of £620 for people with personal loans.

In the 12 months to June, Citizens Advice Wolverhampton helped people with over 600 of credit card issues representing nearly £100,000 of debt.

The charity advised one woman who had her credit limit doubled to £10,000 without her consent, even though she was only making minimal payments on the £5,000 she already owed.

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is urging people who are struggling to repay their debts to seek advice and avoid entering into a debt spiral.

Helen Child of Citizens Advice Wolverhampton said:

“Irresponsible lenders are pushing people further into the red.

“Research from national Citizens Advice’s shows that some credit card providers are extending people’s credit when they’re barely keeping on top of their minimum monthly repayments – which leaves them in a worse financial position.

“It’s really important that anyone who is struggling to pay off their credit card seeks help from us as soon as possible. We can help you to work out the best way manage your finances and how to make repaying your debt more manageable.”

The national charity is calling for changes to protect people from falling into long term credit card debt, including:

● Firms to be banned from raising people’s credit limits without obtaining their explicit consent to give people more protection against ever increasing debt.
● The Financial Conduct Authority to provide clear guidance to lenders stressing that before increasing a borrower’s limit, they must check their ability to repay it.

Council First to Sign Citizens Advice Protocol

 

Released: Wednesday July 19, 2017

City of Wolverhampton Council has become the first local authority in the country to sign up to a new protocol to promote best practice for dealing with people who get into difficulties paying their council tax.

The council is delighted to be the first signatory of the revised Citizens Advice Council Tax Protocol.

The protocol has been created to get local authorities, enforcement agencies and advice agencies working together to help people pay their council tax bills while accessing debt advice when needed.

Councillor Andrew Johnson, City of Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member for resources, signed the protocol on behalf of the council last week alongside Helen Child, chief officer at Citizens Advice Wolverhampton.

By signing the document, the council has been recognised for its commitment to continue improving the information supplied to council tax payers about the billing process and how to get support and debt advice.

There will also be a greater emphasis on partnership working with more regular meetings with agencies like Citizens Advice and others.

Councillor Johnson said: “We are very pleased to be the first council in the country to sign this new protocol with Citizens Advice.

“There are all sorts of reasons why people might struggle to pay their council tax bills and this protocol is all about how we can work with people to support them so that they can pay their bills without getting into greater financial difficulties.

“We have a duty to collect the money owed, but we want to do so in a fair way and only go down the enforcement route when other avenues are exhausted.”

Helen Child, chief officer at Wolverhampton Citizens Advice, said: “Council tax arrears is one of the major causes of debt issues seen by Citizens Advice Wolverhampton. We know from our casework how poor collection practices can often exacerbate a resident’s debt problems. This can contribute to more stress, anxiety or other mental health issues which, in turn, can hinder employment prospects and lead to more calls for assistance from the council and its partners.

“When local authorities and debt advice agencies work closely together, collection processes can be improved, with more early intervention to assist people struggling with payments, helping prevent further charges, alleviate stress and reduce both collection costs and demand on local public services.”

 

Councillor Andrew Johnson – Cabinet Member Finance and Customer Services City of Wolverhampton Council and Helen Child – Chief Officer Citizen’s Advice Bureau Wolverhampton sign the Council Tax Protocol of Good Practise

 

City of Wolverhampton Council cabinet member for resources Cllr Andrew Johnson signs the new protocol with Helen Child from Citizens Advice Wolverhampton.

 

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton calls for government to fix Universal Credit before it fully rolls out in Wolverhampton

 

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is warning that Universal Credit is putting people’s financial security at risk as they wait six weeks or more for their first payment.

Many people have already turned to Citizens Advice Wolverhampton for help with “live service” Universal Credit, a temporary version of the benefit available to people in the area with straightforward claims.

The charity says the numbers struggling will grow rapidly from December 2017, when “full service” arrives, meaning anyone who would previously have claimed one of the old benefits – such as tax credits or housing benefit- has to apply for Universal Credit.

By 2022 Universal Credit will affect 45,500 households across Wolverhampton.

Across the country 1 in 4 (28%) working age households will be claiming Universal Credit, more than half of which (54%) will be in employment. The benefit will also be claimed by more than half (52%) of all families with children in the UK and 6 in 10 (58%) households where an adult is disabled or has a long term health condition.

In a major new report – Delivering on Universal Credit – national Citizens Advice has revealed that the requirement to wait for six weeks to receive any payment means people face serious financial insecurity, with many being forced into debt.

The research also identifies a wide range of administrative challenges, including problems with the online system and long waits to get help over the phone, which can make the initial six week wait even longer.

As part of the new study, national Citizens Advice surveyed 800 people who sought help with Universal Credit in areas where there is full service.

It finds:

  • Over a third (39%) of people are waiting more than the 6 weeks it should take to receive their first payment.

  • Just over 1 in 10 (11%) are waiting over 10 weeks without the benefit.

  • 3 in 5 (57%) are having to borrow money while waiting for their first payment.

The report also reveals that people are having problems with the new online application process. These range from difficulties using a computer, to issues getting hold of the right evidence to support their claim.

And when things go wrong the research shows people are not able to get the help they need: nearly a third (30%) of people said they had to make more than 10 calls to the Universal Credit helpline during their application process, often having to wait over 30 minutes to get through.

The rollout of Universal Credit is set to speed up significantly in October this year. Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is calling on the government to pause this acceleration and use the time to fix key problems with Universal Credit, before thousands more people are brought into the system.

The charity also highlights that, unless addressed, these challenges will undermine the goals of Universal Credit: to simplify the benefits system and offer people the security and support they need to move into and progress in work.

As it stands, many people are facing uncertainty about how much money they will receive and when it will arrive. This insecurity filters through to other areas of their lives, for instance making it harder to focus on finding work while they worry about how to keep on top of bills or put food on the table.

One woman turned to Citizens Advice Wolverhampton for help to manage in the 6 weeks she was waiting to receive any income from Universal Credit, including help with her housing costs.  Having been living for 4 weeks with no income, the woman needed a referral to a foodbank, was in rent arrears, and had been unable to maintain her council tax payments so bailiffs had come to her house.  Because the woman had a further two weeks before any money was expected, Citizens Advice had to direct her to local foodbanks and soup kitchens.

Helen Child, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Wolverhampton said:

“The principles behind Universal Credit are sound, but a mix of flaws in how the benefit was designed and problems with how it is being delivered is leaving many people’s finances in tatters.

“We’re already helping many people across Wolverhampton who are having problems with Universal Credit, and we are concerned this will rise significantly from December. By 2022 it will affect thousands of households across the area.

“If the government doesn’t fix significant problems with Universal Credit then many families across Wolverhampton may be put at financial risk, which can in turn put huge pressure on other local services such as health, housing and social care.

“If anyone does run into problems with Universal Credit, don’t hesitate to contact Citizens Advice Wolverhampton for help.”

In its new report national Citizens Advice makes a range of recommendations to fix Universal Credit before it is rolled out more widely:

Reduce how long people have to wait for their first payment

  • Remove the 7 waiting days at the start of a claim, to reduce the amount of time people have to wait for their first payment.

  • Make sure everyone moving to Universal Credit is told they can get an Advance Payment to help them while they wait for their first payment.

Improve the support available to people so they can make ends meet

  • Introduce an online system for people to book their initial Jobcentre appointments, rather than having to call the Universal Credit helpline.

  • Make the Universal Credit helpline free of charge, at least until the roll-out is complete.

  • Allow people to adjust to Universal Credit by offering everyone options in how they would like the benefit to be paid.

  • Put in place a comprehensive support package before Universal Credit roll-out accelerates, to make sure people get advice to manage their money and deal with any complications in the application process.

 

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton thanks volunteers for solving people’s problems and making a difference to their lives

 

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is celebrating the inspirational volunteers who dedicate their time to solving people’s problems and making a difference to their lives.

To mark Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), the charity is shining a spotlight on the remarkable contribution of its team of 64 volunteers who give up 375 hours each week to help people find a way forward.

In the last year, Citizens Advice Wolverhampton has helped 15,250 people with 33,300 of problems, from housing and debt issues to benefits and employment rights.

The charity’s volunteers have played a crucial role ensuring people in Wolverhampton get the advice and support they need to get on with their lives.

Citizens Advice offers a wide range of voluntary roles – from IT support and advisers to administrators and trustees.

Lorraine started volunteering during her retirement with Citizens Advice Wolverhampton  “I love volunteering and for me it has been a fantastic experience, I feel that my confidence has grown day by day, for me meeting new people and being able to help them is very rewarding. I have made some good friends and I have been able to support a great charity that is supporting social tenants to become more financially confident”.

Helen Child, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Wolverhampton said:

“Thanks to our amazing volunteers we are able to continue making a huge difference to people’s lives.

“Our volunteers give up their time for free to help people who may be going through problems to get back on their feet.

“Volunteering also brings its own rewards and is a great way to meet new people and learn new skills.

“If you can spare a few hours each week, we’d love to hear from you.”

Nationally Citizens Advice relies on 23,000 volunteers who help provide support in 2,900 locations across England and Wales – helping 2.7 million people every year.

Thanks to contribution volunteers play in local Citizens Advice, two out of every three clients have their problem solved and four out of five say the advice received improved their lives.

If you’re interested in finding out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice Wolverhampton contact district@wolverhamptoncitizensadvice.com

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton expecting 25th of January to be the busiest day for advice on finances

3rd January 2017

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is expecting 570 people to seek advice on financial matters in January as the national charity reveals that people are more likely to research financial decisions in January than any other time of the year.

Analysis by the national charity shows that across the country, demand for money and debt advice is highest in January and February, with one person contacting their nearest Citizens Advice for help every 11 seconds and people visiting the Citizens Advice website every 3 seconds in January.

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is predicting demand for advice on finances to peak on 25th January which was the busiest day in January 2016.

While January is often associated with squeezed budgets and debt worries, Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is also expecting people to contact them with money queries as people take stock of their money situation and plan their finances long-term.

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton anticipates that the most popular money queries will be banking, insurance and budgeting, while the most common questions around managing debt will cover council tax arrears, water bills and personal loans.

To help people get started, Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is sharing its eight top tips to help people get their finances in order for the New Year.

Helen Child, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Wolverhampton said:

“January is a great time to take stock of your finances and think about your priorities for the future, not just for the next month but for the next year and beyond.

“Although many people will be focusing on their next paycheck after the busy Christmas period, people can also use the time to review whether they can save money on their bills or set a savings goal.

“Whether you’re looking to deal with debts, cut your costs or budget better, Citizens Advice can help you review your overall money situation so you can make decisions that improve your financial security.”

For information and advice, contact Citizens Advice Wolverhampton on 03444 111 444.

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton’s top tips for getting your finances in order.

3rd January 2017

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.

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton shares advice to help people with Christmas parcel delivery problems save time and money

16th December 2016

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is offering advice to residents who are trying to resolve delivery problems after the national charity found people experienced 4.8 million issues with parcel deliveries in 2015/16.

The findings from Citizens Advice’s latest Consumer Advice Trends reveal that shoppers waste two and half hours trying to sort out problems with parcels that go missing, arrive late or arrive damaged.

Each delivery problem costs shoppers the equivalent of £30 due to the time spent tracking down parcels, lost working hours and failure to get refunds for missing or damaged goods.

Last year, visits to the charity’s advice pages on parcel deliveries peaked on the 18 December with a 60% increase on the previous month.

With Christmas fast approaching and flurry of online orders arriving, Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is sharing tips to help people affected by delivery problems understand their rights and press for a solution.

Helen Child, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Wolverhampton said:

“Wasting hours trying to track down missing parcels is the last thing people want to be doing just before Christmas.

“Getting in touch with the retailer you bought the item from should always be your first port of call when you have a delivery problem – it is their responsibility to make sure the item arrives on time and in good condition.

“We hope that our tips will show people the steps to take and make the process smoother, so they can find a solution with minimum fuss.”

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton’s top tips for sorting out delivery problems

16th December 2016

Parcel hasn’t arrived?

● If you gave the retailer a specific date your parcel should arrive by and it doesn’t turn up, you are entitled to a refund.

● If you haven’t agreed a specific date but your item hasn’t turned up by the estimated delivery date, contact the retailer to find out where it is. They should give you a new estimate.

● Ask if you can cancel the delivery if the new date the retailer gives you is too late.

● If you do agree to a new delivery date but the item still late, you are entitled to a refund.

Parcel gone missing?

●     Once again, it’s the retailer’s responsibility to make sure your item is delivered to you, and in good condition. If your parcel is left in a place you didn’t agree to and goes missing, they should replace it or refund you.

●     You can get a refund or replacement if it doesn’t turn up at all.

Item arrives damaged?

●     If the item is damaged when you open it, contact the retailer. They will be able to give you either a repair for the item, a replacement or a refund. You may be asked to provide photos of the damaged goods.

For further help sorting out delivery problems, pick up a leaflet on from Citizens Advice Wolverhampton.

Alternatively you can contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton responds to interest rates cut:

pass the savings on!

5th August 2016

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton has today called for creditors to pass on the cut in interest rates announced by the Bank of England, to take the pressure off people in debt.

Yesterday, the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney today announced that interest rates will be cut from 0.5% to a record low of 0.25%.

In response to the cut, Helen Child, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Wolverhampton, said:

“Having interest rates at a record low could take some of the pressure off people struggling with unmanageable debt.  Last year we helped over 1,700 local people handle their debt – amounting to nearly £8 million.  The biggest single type of debt was unsecured loans – with 370 people owing £1.7 million – a cut in interest rates for this type of debt would really make a difference to people’s ability to manage.

“With levels of unsecured debt like credit cards and personal loans now rising faster than incomes, lower interest rates could provide some relief for people worried about their financial future.

“It’s important that creditors now look to pass on the cut in interest rates and reduce the cost of borrowing for their customers as soon as possible.”

Emma Byrne, Debt Team Leader at Citizens Advice Wolverhampton said “if you are struggling with debts, contact us for advice.  Our service is free and quality assured, and we can help.  Don’t struggle in silence; get the help we can offer.”

The Citizens Advice Wolverhampton Debt Team can be reached on 03444 111 444 or at 26 Snow Hill.

 

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton urges people to be on their guard against pension scammers

15th July 2016

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is urging people in the West Midlands to talk to loved ones about pension scams to protect them from becoming victims.

The local charity is raising awareness this Scams Awareness Month to help people avoid falling for fraudster’s tricks. Citizens Advice Wolverhampton wants people to follow a three-step rule- get advice, report it, and tell others about it.

Research from national Citizens Advice shows that pension scammers’ tactics are becoming more sophisticated with fraudsters offering free pensions ‘advice’ or ‘reviews’ as a first step towards tricking people out of their pension pots.

The research also finds people are particularly at risk of scams from phone calls, post and emails which come out of the blue. As many as 10.9 million consumers have received unsolicited contact about their pension in the last year.

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is warning people to be on their guard against pension scam warning signs, such as high investment returns of over 8% and offers to access your pension before the age of 55.

Helen Child, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Wolverhampton said:

“Talking to family and friends can be a good way to stay safe from pension scams.

“If you think you’ve been targeted by a scam, it’s vital you report it and spread the word. By raising awareness, more people will know what warnings signs to look out for and how to report scams. Citizens Advice Wolverhampton can help if you are worried that you may have been targeted by scammers.

“If you are over 50 with a defined contribution pension, Pension Wise guidance can help you understand what pension scam warning signs to look out for. Citizens Advice Wolverhampton can help you book a Pension Wise appointment.”

How to avoid being scammed

  • Ignore any contact you receive about your pension out of the blue. This could be in person, online, on the phone or in the post
  • Never be rushed into making a decision
  • Check if the company contacting you is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
  • If you are unsure, contact Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047
  • Look at the FCA’s Scamsmart warning list, which gives the names of investment schemes that are known scams. www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart
  • If you suspect you have been contacted by a scammer or you have already accepted an offer you think is a scam, report it to Action Fraud
  • If you are over 50, Pension Wise guidance can equip you with the knowledge of what to look out for to avoid falling victim to scams. Visit pensionwise.gov.uk
  • Visit the Pension Regulator’s website to find out more about protecting yourself from pension scams: http://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/

Volunteers donate £510,000 worth of time to Citizens Advice Wolverhampton

15th December 2016

Helen Child, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Wolverhampton, used a tea party during Volunteers Week 2016 to thank the 52 volunteers who gave their time at the local charity over the last 12 months.  Each volunteer received personal thanks for their contribution, with Voscars (volunteer oscars) being awarded to those voted for by their peers as making a particularly outstanding contribution.

volunteer-award-pic

Citizens Advice Wolverhampton volunteers support people face-to-face and over the phone.  Over the last 12 months they helped local people with 33,513 issues, by:

  • Dealing with debt, designing payment plans and negotiating with lenders

  • Improving people’s financial skills, for example by finding ways to cut fuel bills

  • Standing up for people’s rights at work if they believe they have been bullied or unfairly dismissed

  • Helping people claim their entitlements like sick pay and maternity pay

Volunteers also give their time in areas like fundraising, administration and governance.

Our Volunteers vary greatly in age and experience and we are fortunate to have some who are generous enough to have committed decades of their valuable time.

In our experience people volunteer for many different reasons, the most popular ones include:

  • To make a positive difference to the community since retirement

  • To gain valuable experience for future employment

  • To help others who need it

  • To gain skills and improve confidence

  • To meet other people and make friends

Helen Child is encouraging local people in  Wolverhampton  to get in touch about the  current volunteering opportunities which include:

Receptionist
Information assistants
Generalist Advisors
Debt Advisors
Data entry & Admin assistants

She said:

“Citizens Advice volunteers change lives”.

“It is thanks to the generosity of our volunteers that Citizens Advice Wolverhampton is able to help people take control of their finances, claim entitlements like sick pay and protect their rights at work.

“There are many opportunities to volunteer at Citizens Advice and new volunteers are always welcome.”

As one of our volunteers commented:-

“At Citizens Advice if you give your time you get a lot back.

“It is really satisfying being able to help people solve their problems and see that a weight has been lifted off their mind.  Being a volunteer at Citizens Advice has also given me an opportunity to learn valuable skills and work with great people.

“I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking about volunteering at Citizens Advice Wolverhampton.”

Twenty one thousand volunteers gave up their time across the Citizens Advice network last year.  The national charity estimates its volunteers donate over £100 million worth of time each year across England and Wales. By working out how much it would cost for paid employees to do their work Citizens Advice is able to estimate the value of hours donated by volunteers.

People interested in volunteering at their local Citizens Advice please email recruitment@wolverhamptoncitizensadvice.com or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/support-us/volunteering.

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