Unclaimed benefits and grants worth £500,000 have been identified in less than three months by council staff during special sessions for citizens at two Neighbourhood Advice and Information Centres.
Since November, the sessions – specifically for cost of living issues – have been held in Erdington and Northfield, with 283 people assisted to maximise their income during these tough times through benefits and grants worth a combined, estimated, total of £509,919.
It means each person the council’s expert staff have been able to help could be better off to the tune of £1,801 per year, equivalent to £34 per week that they previously didn’t know they had a legitimate entitlement to.
In some cases, five-figure fees have been unlocked for people that have been supported. Those being helped are a mixture of pre-booked appointments, “walk-ins” during the sessions or people that council staff have proactively called because they have recently been in receipt of other types of support such as local welfare provision.
Councillor John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Justice, Community Safety and Equalities, said: “We’ve been clear since the start of the cost of living crisis that we will do everything we can to support people in need in our city.
“The amounts that are being unlocked by our knowledgeable and dedicated staff are staggering – and they are also concerning at the same time, because it shows how complicated it can be to navigate the benefits system when you need help. We’ll continue supporting people given this crisis is nowhere near its end through this and the other programmes and projects we have, such as our network of Warm Welcome Centres.”
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.
For anyone 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.
The extended hours sessions are on offer at the following locations from 4.30pm to 7pm on Tuesdays and from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays:
- Erdington Advice Centre, 67 Sutton New Road, Erdington, B23 6QT
- Northfield Customer Service Centre, 1a Vineyard Road, Northfield, B31 1PG
Residents are advised that only support relating directly to cost of living issues will be offered during these extended hours, so anyone with other queries should make contact during the regular opening times.