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Extended advice and information hours secure more than £100,000 in extra benefits for citizens impacted by the cost of living crisis

Published: Monday, 28th November 2022

More than £100,000 in increased benefits have been unlocked for Birmingham residents as a result of Neighbourhood Advice and Information services offered during extended opening hours by the council.

The total has been achieved less than one month since Erdington Advice Centre and Northfield Customer Service Centre began operating specifically for cost of living issues from 4.30pm until 7pm on Tuesdays and 10am until 1pm on Saturdays.

As of last Friday (November 25), a total of 88 residents had been supported to maximise their income for an estimated combined total of £113,000 in additional benefits and grants over the next 12 months.

Of these, 34 made use of the walk-in service, while the remaining 54 were contacted by the advisors on duty through targeted outbound calls to people who had recently received a Local Welfare Provision payment from the council, to assess what further support may be available.

Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Justice, Community Safety and Equalities at Birmingham City Council, said: “It is amazing how doing something as straightforward as extending opening hours can have a positive life-changing impact in this way.

“We’re hearing all too often about the impact that the cost of living crisis is having on families in our communities – but this shows that help is out there and as the council, we will do everything we can to support people in their time of need.

“The advisors who are meeting people at our centres and making the calls to those who we know are in need are putting in a heroic effort and their work deserves to be showcased and celebrated. Thank you to everyone involved in this and all other related Help In Brum initiatives that are being delivered at present.”

Extended hours are also being offered via the council’s contact centre for those who are unable to make face-to-face meetings or prefer using the phone.

If you are experiencing immediate problems, please call 0121 303 1116. The opening hours are Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm, and Saturday 10am to 1pm.

The council’s website also has a wide range of advice and information, including details on initiatives such as the recently-launched Birmingham Warm Welcome Spaces.

To find out more, visit: www.birmingham.gov.uk/livingsupport

Background notes

For those wishing to attend our advice and information centres during the extended opening hours, the full location details are as follows:

  • Erdington Advice Centre, 67 Sutton New Road, Erdington, B23 6QT
  • Northfield Customer Service Centre, 1a Vineyard Road, Northfield, B31 1PG

As stated above, only cost of living support is on offer during the extended hours.

 

The following are case studies of people that have been supported to maximise their income during the extended hours of operation at our advice and information centres:

Case Study 1

A citizen living in Weoley and Selly Oak ward came to Northfield Customer Service centre during extended opening hours as they were struggling to pay rent and Council Tax. As the citizen had two spare bedrooms in their property, they were having to pay a 25 per cent under-occupancy charge of £26.87 per week, so the adviser completed an application for a Discretionary Housing Payment for the rent and council tax to cover the shortfall in benefit.

The adviser also applied for a Local Welfare Provision crisis card as they were in hardship and explained how it was assessed and awarded.

As the citizen explained they had spinal and other back problems which affected their daily living, the adviser explained they could apply for Personal Independence Payment and phoned for an application form to be sent to them and offered assistance to complete it once it was received.

The adviser explained that PIP can be paid on top of other benefits without any detrimental effect.

Total benefits identified for this citizen: £5,236.

 

Case Study 2

A citizen living in temporary accommodation in Holyhead ward was identified as recently having a food voucher from the Contact Centre, so an adviser made a proactive phone call out to them to offer income maximisation advice.

During the conversation the adviser discovered the citizen had been in temporary accommodation since 2017 and had not been getting any Housing Benefit since 2021 following a move due to a ceiling problem at their previous address.

The citizen was supported with making a claim for housing benefit with advice also given on whether a retrospective claim could be pursued.

The citizen also had a £3,206 Council Tax debt which had been passed to bailiffs for recovery, so advice was given on repaying this by instalments direct from their Universal Credit and also a claim for Council Tax Support was made in the interview.

The adviser also discovered that Child Benefit was only being paid for three of their four children, so gave advice on how to claim for the fourth child.

Total benefits identified for this family: £10,908.

 

Case Study 3

A citizen living in Tyseley and Hay Mills ward was identified as recently having a food voucher from the council contact centre, so an adviser made a proactive phone call out to them to offer income maximisation advice.

During the conversation the adviser discovered the person was in receipt of Employment Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits. There was also a non-dependant child at home claiming Universal Credit as they have health problems.

The adviser saw there was a credit on their rent account of £152.60 so requested a refund to be issued but the citizen was still having £3.85 per week deducted from their Universal Credit for rent arrears which had now been cleared – so the adviser explained how to request DWP stop this deduction as it was also causing hardship.

As the citizen was in receipt of Personal Independence Payments, the adviser explained their child could receive a higher amount of Universal Credit as a carer and explained the eligibility for this, how to claim it and further support via the council if needed.

Advice was given in respect of their child making a claim for PIP as well in respect of themselves.

A referral to the Money and Pensions Service for debt advice in respect of their energy debt of £1,170 and Council Tax debt of £330 was made too, which they were very grateful for.

The adviser finished by making an application for a Local Welfare Provision crisis card as they were experiencing hardship caused by the deductions from their benefit.

Total benefits identified for this family: £12,845.

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