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Posts by: Dan Rice

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.

Research and Campaigns

Hello and welcome to the first Research and Campaigns blog post!

Citizens Advice commits to campaigning on issues that affect people’s lives. Each week, we’ll be writing about a different Research and Campaigns issue and what we are doing to try to fix it. We will also give tips for what you can do if it affects you.

This week’s blog post is on Council Tax debt. Council Tax debt is the most common debt issue we see. It has risen by a third in the last 3 years.

Due to this rise, Citizens Advice launched a campaign called Council Tax Protocol. As part of the campaign, local Citizens Advice offices are working together with local councils. This is to  have fair debt collection processes and stop people getting into debt in the first place. It is one of the primary campaigns we are working on here.

Are You Struggling to Pay Your Council Tax?

During the coronavirus pandemic, Sandwell Council has suspended all court action for Council related debt. This means you may get an initial letter telling you about the debt, but they will take no further action. It is important to remember that this is only during the pandemic. The council expects you to pay the debt back once the pandemic is over. The usual recovery process will then resume.

If you cannot pay your bill, you should inform the council as soon as possible and then talk to one of our debt advisers.

If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for Council Tax Reduction. You can check your eligibility for Council Tax reductions or exemptions here. You can also talk to one of our generalist advisers. They may be able to determine your eligibility, and help you with an application. They can also check your eligibility for other benefits. This will be especially useful if your income has dropped recently due to the pandemic!

We do not have a face-to-face service currently due to quarantine. But you can still get advice over webchat or call our Adviceline service on 0300 330 9017 (local rates apply). Check the opening times for these services on our website. 

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.

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


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 


For some help and guidance go to our favourite website for information and tips on Budgeting & Saving

Janet’s Blog

More financial information this week 

What’s happening with our bank accounts and credit/store cards

Your Bank

The first £500 of authorised overdrafts can be interest-free for 3months (for overdrafts under £500, the entire balance will be interest-free).

Those with accounts that have an overdraft facility, who are struggling due to coronavirus, should be able to request one of these 0% overdrafts, subject to a credit score.

To be fair, many banks were offering some easing anyway, but this deletes the ‘lottery’ element. After all, no one chose a bank based on how well they’d behave in this never-imagined crisis

Please check what your bank is doing. Many have sent texts to inform us of their policies during this time.

Your credit cards, store cards, personal loans and catalogues

They all must offer a payment holiday

The FCA also proposes that all lenders will be expected to move towards offering payment holidays of up to 3mths on personal loans, credit cards and catalogue debts – so if you can’t pay, you won’t need to.

Don’t just stop payment though – you need to agree with them.

Once done, these payments aren’t allowed to hurt your creditworthiness, nor can there be any penalties or charges if you do, you can’t lose a 0% deal either

-Is it worth taking a payment holiday? 

Yes if you have an emergency cash flow need, no if not. That’s especially true if the interest rate is high, as it’ll still rack up during the payment holiday, and as you’re not making repayments it can be hefty. So only do this if you need it.

– Does this apply to car finance, payday loans & other short-term credit too?

 No, although I hear at least with car finance, the regulator is likely to make an announcement soon, though lenders are already required to show forbearance to customers. 

Janet April 2020

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 

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

And a pdf doc that may bemaybe good to distribute

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,

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

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

Good Luck

Janet April 2020

Covid-19 SCAMS

2.Newsletter   Covid-19 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. 

2. Scams – Key facts and all the data

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

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


March 2020

Janet’s Blog

Please check out  Coronavirus and what it means to 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

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


The Council also has useful information if you go to this website

or you can email your questions here

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

Thank you.