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Category: Blog

Sandwell and Walsall – two become one!

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.

– Vicki Fitzgerald, CEO, Citizens Advice Sandwell & Walsall

Blog – 28/08/20   -Do a bill-busting check to get your bills shipshape

Here are some great tips from our favourite Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis that I thought I would share with you – definitely worth taking a look to get the best deals

There is never a bad time to check you’re not overpaying on energy, broadband, credit cards, etc. But right now, it’s even more important. Our Money Makeover Checklist has it all – here are some of the biggies:

–  CREDIT CARDS. Pay interest? Save £100s by shifting debt to 0% for up to 28mths. We have the top balance transfer deals below

– MORTGAGES. Are you one of 1m+ on a standard rate? Can you save £1,000s switching? See our Remortgage Guide & Mortgage Best Buys.

–  COUNCIL TAX. 100,000s, overpay. Yet a 10-min check could save £1,000s if you’re in the wrong band or you’re failing to grab discounts. 

– ENERGY. Switch & save £250+/yr. We’ve blagged the cheapest 1yr fix.

– MOBILES. If out of contract & happy with your phone, many can save with a new Sim. Eg, 4GB data, unltd mins & texts: ‘£6.57/mth’. See Cheap Sims.

– BROADBAND. Slash bills & get a speed boost. The cheapest fibre b’band & line in 3yrs is available at ‘£14.99/mth’. See more b’band deals.

– CAR INSURANCE. Never auto-renew. Instead use comparisons to slash prices, even if not at renewal. See our car insurance cost-cutters.

How To Contact Us

Due to our offices not operating an open door service we have now introduced a service where you can request a callback or an appointment. If you require this service then please visit your nearest Citizens Advice in Sandwell and fill in one of the cards we have on the door and post through the letterbox. A member of the team will then be in touch.

You can also contact us via our advice line on 0300 330 9017 (Local rates apply) This service is available

Monday  —    9.00am –  3.30pm

Tuesday  —    9.00am –  7.00pm

Wed/Thur/Fri  —    9.00am –  3.30pm

If you prefer not to speak to an advisor over the phone then you can also use our webchat service which is available via the homepage of our website

Holiday Makers Rights

Holiday Makers Rights                          

Where to go to to get the right up to date information

There is so much going on at the moment and government advice changing so quickly so please take a look at the following information which comes from our own national Citizens Advice pages 

If you’re planning on travelling abroad

You should:

If you’ve booked a holiday

If you already have a holiday booked it’s worth checking guidance from your travel agent, airline or other holiday provider. You might be able to rebook your holiday and go later in the year.

You can find out more about getting a refund because of coronavirus

You can also find out what to do if your package holiday is cancelled. If you need more help, you can get advice from the consumer service.

If your visa is ending and you can’t leave the UK

You should contact the Home Office if all of the following apply:

  • your visa is ending soon
  • you’re planning to leave the UK at the end of your visa
  • either the government has told you to self-isolate or the country you need to go to won’t let you in because of coronavirus

If your visa expires at any time from 24 January to 31 July 2020, the Home Office will extend your visa until 31 July. You should tell the Home Office using the online form on GOV.UK.

If your visa expires after 31 July, the Home Office will decide whether to extend your visa. You should tell the Home Office using the contact details on GOV.UK

If you’re entering the UK from abroad

There are special rules if you’re planning to arrive in the UK. This includes if you’re coming back to the UK after spending time abroad. Check if you have to follow the special rules on GOV.UK.

You’ll usually have to fill in a form on GOV.UK with details of where you’ll stay in the UK.

You also might have to stay inside at the address you put on the form for 14 days after you arrive – this is called ‘self-isolating’ or ‘quarantine’.

You won’t have to self-isolate if you’ve been in countries which are considered safe for the whole of the last 14 days – check which countries are considered safe on GOV.UK. You’ll still have to fill out the form.

The rules are different if you’re coming to the UK from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. You won’t have to fill in the form or self-isolate unless you travelled from somewhere else in the last 14 days.

Filling in the form

You must fill in the form on GOV.UK with details of the address where you’ll be staying in the UK.

It’s best to fill in the form before you travel – you can fill it in up to 48 hours before you arrive in the UK. You can also fill in the form when you arrive – there will be computers you can use.

When you complete the form you’ll get an email confirmation to print or show on your phone. You’ll need to show the confirmation to immigration officials when you arrive in the UK.

If you don’t fill in the form, you might get a fine of up to £100. If you’re not a British or Irish citizen, you might not be allowed into the UK.

Self-isolating for 14 days

If you have to self-isolate, you must stay at the address you put on the form.

You can only leave the address for certain reasons, including:

  • getting basic things like food, medicine or pet supplies – if you can’t get them delivered
  • getting medical help – if it’s urgent or your doctor has told you to get help
  • going to the funeral of a close relative
  • if there’s an emergency – for example if it’s not safe to stay inside

You must not meet anyone except the people you’re staying with.

If you don’t self-isolate, you might get a £1,000 fine.

If you need to move to a different address in the 14 days, you must fill in a new form on GOV.UK.

You can check the rules on self-isolation on GOV.UK.

Janet Mylchreest 

August 2020

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


We are seeking to recruit a:

Community Navigator (E.U Citizens Support Project) 

Must be able to speak a European Language. 

Hours: 16 hours per week Fte

Citizens Advice Sandwell are delivering E.U citizens support project which provides very practical advice and hands-on support to settled migrants that may be affected by the process of the UK leaving the European Union. Community Navigators will help vulnerable individuals and families to access local services and support agencies. The Community Navigators will be able to assist with processes that may need to be completed in order for individuals and families to remain, work and be an active part of the community. Accessing services can prove extremely difficult for families and individuals who are facing the pressure, stress, and uncertainty that Brexit may cause.

Community Navigators 

We are looking for creative, resourceful, enthusiastic and empathetic individuals who have effective written and verbal communication skills. They will need to be motivated and willing to help others and work across the Sandwell Borough

Candidates must have experience of living or working in a diverse community.

Experience of supporting families /neighbours and or friends and have had or still have Involvement in community groups and activities. 

There will be a requirement for candidates to be able to work on their own and also as part of a team.  Candidates may also be required to work flexibly to meet the needs of individuals and families they will be supporting

This is an exciting opportunity to be a part of a great charity and an innovative project.

Salary: £16,835 pro rata per annum

Contract: Fixed Term till March 2021  

Closing date: Monday 13th July 12 noon

Interview date: Friday 24th July 2020 

For an Application Pack or more information (CV’s not accepted)

 please email:

Janets Weekly Blog – 15/06/20

Scam Awareness

It Scam Awareness fortnight from the 15th June and it’s a national campaign that we get involved with every year.

This year we want to carry on with the same good messages.

Help people to recognise a Scam 

Encourage people to take action and report a scam 

and my favourite – Talk about Scams

Please think about how you can include this in the good work you do as well as a point of discussion with your friends and family.

I know some of you may a little jaded with me going on about Scams, so in my endeavour to jazz things up, there are a couple of YouTube clips which are good and short and an interactive quiz  -( not the same one we had last year, this one has been sent to me from my son in Australia.)

So can you SPOT all the mistakes on these SCAMS?

Please Please Please take a quick look – 20 mins at the most of your time to look at all the following:

1) Youtube clip from the Illegal Money lending Team – How to Spot a Loan Shark

(not a scam I know but fits in quite nicely with our mission to help protect people  )

2) YouTube clip from Friends Against SCAMS -What is a Scam, click DEAR DAVID

3 ) YouTube video from the This Morning programme with Martin Lewis

4) The Spot the Scam quiz – have a go!

Take a look at a couple of good resources on our CA public site too

Janet Mylchreest

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.