I am delighted to announce that Sandwell and Walsall Citizens Advice services have merged to provide an even better support to local people.
The new organisation is called… Citizens Advice Sandwell & Walsall!
The merger means we bring together the best of two separate services to create a stronger, more joined-up organisation that can be of greater to help to the people that need it, when they need it.
At an organisation level, combining the skills and experience two boards of trustees will greatly benefit the service’s governance and management.
Working with a larger Citizens Advice will help us develop more streamlined and efficient ways of working. We will be able to pool expertise in training and development and offer more webchat opportunities. Importantly, we will invest heavily in volunteers, developing their roles and opportunities, increasing the numbers and recognising their knowledge and experience as qualified advisers.
In fact, it has already helped us secure funding to train more advisers. What’s more, we will be retraining people who have lost their jobs because of Covid-19; and, last month, we were able to buy a mobile advice unit that can take the service directly into the community.
It’s good for local partnerships, too. We have already been working closely with services across the two boroughs to explore ways of providing advice and support to residents. Our partnership work has also linked us with other local initiatives, including helping both local authorities respond to Covid-19.
I am very excited about this new venture. We are forging a new Citizens Advice service from two great teams, to do the very best we can for the people that need us. And we could hardly be doing it at a more important time.
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.”
The government has now triggered Article 50. This means that the process of leaving the EU has started.
Some laws will change in the future – but not immediately.
Everything will stay the same until new laws are made.
If you’re an EU citizen living in the UK, your rights to live, work or get benefits won’t change unless the government passes new laws.
If you’re a UK citizen living in the EU or travelling to the EU, your rights won’t change yet either.
You don’t need to take any action now. Changes to the law will be announced before they happen, so you’ll have time to prepare if you’re affected.
If you think you’ve been discriminated against since the referendum, for example if you’ve been unfairly refused work or housing, or told your rights have changed, you can contact us on 03444111444 or call into one of our offices. – See opening times
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
Joint bank accounts
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 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.
The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, will deliver the Autumn Statement today. He is expected to announce a ban on letting agents and our response welcoming this move is covered by the BBC and FT online.
Data from Citizens Advice showing that letting agents charge £337 on average is also covered extensively across news outlets.
We will also be issuing a follow-up statement later on today.