ADVICE centres will get over £3 million in council grants to help poor people claim £30 million in welfare benefits over the next three years.

Sandwell cabinet members have backed a plan to to pay five groups, including the Citizens Advice service and Sandwell Consortium,  £1,125,956 each year until March 2023. 

Cllr Yvonne Davies, leader of the council, said the centres are ‘desperately needed’.

“Stable funding will enable service providers to continue to work together to deliver high quality services that respond flexibly to changes in need, and clearly in today’s environment is desperately needed,” she said.

A report to the cabinet showed that in the first six months of this year over 8,000 people had approached advice centres asking for help.

Data from the  Office for National Statistics shows that in January 2019 Sandwell had 19,500 homes where no one was in employment.

In October, government statistics revealed nearly 10,000 people in the borough were claiming out of work benefits. 

Asked how the service would benefit residents, Cllr Davies replied: “Local people have continued access to high quality and most importantly, free advice, about a range of issues including welfare benefits, housing, employment, immigration, health and well-being. 

“It can’t be overestimated how important it is when people have difficulties dealing with a complex, modern society in which we live with all of its responsibilities and expectations that people have doors they can walk through which helps them manage that complexity and meet their responsibilities.”

She said advice centres help residents claim £10 million in benefits, adding: “£10 million every year that helps alleviate poverty as well as supporting the local economy because poor people spend their money predominantly locally, that helps our local businesses.”

In addition to the Citizens Advice and Sandwell Consortium three other groups – Smethwick Pakistani Muslim Association, Brushstrokes and BetterOff Sandwell  – will also be funded.