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Brent Citizens Advice Bureau www.twitter.com/brentcab Winter 2011

Shape of things to come? The changes to the Housing Benefit (HB) system announced by the Government are beginning to bite. Although not in force until next January, private landlords are already taking drastic action. landlords because they rely on HB. We are also seeing many residents whose tenancy agreement is not renewed because of the HB changes. In other cases, landlords are simply issuing Section 21 notice to evict tenants.

Estate agent in Brent

Although the government has delayed the changes, evidence is emerging of the impact of the proposed housing benefit cap. We are receiving a mounting number of enquiries from prospective tenants, who are being rejected by

The full implementation of these proposals, next January, is bound to have a devastating effect on Brent residents – of the 10,225 families receiving LHA in Brent, 1,988 are receiving LHA above the cap – and it may be compounded by the pressure on accommodation and other basic services - such as schools and health, as a result of families being displaced from more affluent central London boroughs.

We are already working with Brent Council to look at ways of easing the impact of such changes. We have also raised our concerns with local MPs. Brent CAB attended a meeting of the Work and Pensions Select Committee to make the case against a cut in housing benefits. Brent CAB is looking for a multi– agency partnership to support people affected by these changes. We are also trying to secure extra resources to deal with HB cases and displaced families. If you would like to know more about working in partnership with Brent CAB, please contact Jacqueline.carr@brentcab.co.uk

Chair’s Comment Central government has introduced the deepest spending cuts since WW2. Brent CAB funding has already been cut and there is great uncertainty about the future. I regret to say Brent CAB funding has already suffered substantial losses. Since the General Election, we have lost a quarter of our total funding and, I fear, more cuts are on the way. Children centres are now undergoing a major reorganization, which could result in a significant reduction of the service Brent CAB delivers at children centres.

This is despite the fact Brent CAB has been hugely effective at children centres, helping 2820 families last year and gaining £3.7 million for parents since April 2009.

impact of Government cuts for the benefit of all Brent residents, and to focus in particular on protecting the most vulnerable in our community.

It is alarming to see funding being reduced as part of a budgetary drill, paying little or no attention to outcomes or impact on vulnerable people.

I trust this policy to be fully implemented, when it comes to deciding on essential advice services for Brent residents and the future of Brent CAB.

That is why I welcome Brent Council’s decision on 24 January, to manage the

Ian Brownhill Chair Brent CAB

Brent CAB, Working in Partnership with


What users think of the bureau Brent CAB has conducted a fresh users’ satisfaction survey. The results show strong satisfaction with access, usefulness of advice and high levels of trust and confidence in the bureau. Usefulness of advice 96% 97% 96%97%99% 100% 2006 2007

50%

4% 3% 4% 3% 1%

0%

2008 2009 2010

Useful

This is the fifth year running we asked users for their views. The survey was conducted over a period of three weeks in November. 344 Brent residents responded to 14 questions, ranging from access to the bureau to usefulness and impact of advice. The results show satisfaction with quality of advice and difference made is on a steady increase over a period of five years. This is very remarkable considering the ever-growing pressure of demand on the service, and the fact resources are very limited. To improve against that backdrop is no mean achievement.

Not useful

98% of respondents think they received information that was easy to understand and 97% said they are now clear about what to do. 99% of all respondents thought advice was very useful or useful. 97% would gladly use the bureau again and 99% had no hesitation in recommending us to friends and relatives. We are delighted with this response, although keenly aware of the responsibility this trust places on everyone at the bureau. We are determined to maintain this high standard, and continue helping Brent residents to the best of our ability. Full results are available at http://issuu.com/brentcab

Brent CAB helps customers of Veolia Water If you are a domestic customer of Veolia Water, formally Three Valleys Water, struggling to pay off your current water arrears, let alone the new bill that will be arriving in March, help is at hand to assist you in negotiating affordable repayments to your creditors and possibly receiving a grant to pay off your water arrears. An application to Veolia Water Trust at Brent Citizens Advice Bureau can not only help with water arrears but in some cases result in grants to pay off gas and electricity arrears as well. Brent CAB advisors will also help clients to balance their family budgets and negotiate affordable repayments to their creditors. The Veolia Water Trust is a charity set up to relieve poverty, hardship and distress, particularly among those who are unable to meet or pay charges for the supply of water.

In brief Winter Warmth Fund This is a joint initiative, between The Tricycle Theatre and Brent CAB, and benefits people who are affected by fuel poverty. The Fund is targeted to help people with disabilities, elderly people and families on low income or benefits. Last year we made 15 awards totalling £3000. For details see http://issuu.com/brentcab Children Centres outcomes Brent CAB advisers have gained £1.4 million in financial outcomes for parents at children centres from April 2010 - including benefit entitlements, repayments for debts, charitable payments and child support/maintenance payments. Minster Centre Brent CAB is providing a one day a week advice session at the Minster Centre in Queen’s Park, from Thursday 3 February. Pre-booked appointments only.

Access to Advice Brent Citizens Advice Bureau 270 – 272 High Road Willesden London NW10 2EY www.twitter.com/brentcab Open session: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 9.30-16.00.

Thursday by appointment only. Advice Line: 0845 050 5250 Mon-Fri 9.30-5pm.

For general information www.adviceguide.org.uk

Appointments with Brent CAB advisors can be requested by calling 020 8459 3617 or 0845 050 5250.

This newsletter was edited by Fernando Ruz 0208 438 1214 f.ruz@brentcab.co.uk


Brent CAB winter newsletter