I am in my mid-80s. I live alone, on a small pension, in the London Borough of Brent. I struggle financially. After seeing a telephone number for help and advice advertised by my local authority, I called and was told that someone will be in touch with me by phone. I received a phone call from a supervisor at Bosnia and Herzegovina Community Advice Centre who spoke to me about my financial situation, advised me on a Pension Credit claim, backdating and arranged for their Trainee Welfare Benefits Advisor to call me to make a claim for Pension Credit. The Advisor helped with an online claim for Pension Credit and in two weeks I received a letter from DWP’s  Pension Service informing me that I am entitled to £87.54 per week from 6 July 2020. I thank the BHCAC staff for their advice and assistance. They were so efficient and responsive. Unfortunately, I could have been in receipt of this financial support  for many years, but I did not know about it and  had no one to advise me.”  

 (Brent resident)

 

I am 78 years old widower with chronic heart disease, a non- English speaker living alone in London borough of Lambeth. Since the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown, I have had to stay at home due to my age and underlying health condition. My son, who lives nearby provides me with weekly food shopping and I receive weekly welfare check-up calls from BHCAC. In one of their calls in June 2020, I informed them that I was not feeling well and that my son liaised with my GP and I was waiting for them to contact me. I felt very weak and was losing breath and found it difficult to speak.  BHCAC Advocacy Worker immediately called 111 and soon after the assessment, the ambulance arrived. I was taken to King’s College Hospital where I stayed for a week and was later discharged. I am at my home, safe and feel well now. I am thankful to BHCAC for all they did for me, the welfare check-up call in early June from BHCAC probably saved my life and I owe it to them. I hope all this is over soon and I look forward to seeing them in person to thank them properly with the box of chocolates and flowers.”

(Vulnerable Londoner from West Balkans)

 

Since April 2020, my work hours have been reduced to 16 hours per week due to Covid-19, resulting in my basic expenditure being higher than my income from earnings. As a result, my rent arrears started to accumulate, I did not have an option than to live off the credit card which accumulated additional debt. I was extremely worried about being evicted by my landlord due to rent arrears. This impacted my mental health and in August 2020 I was admitted to hospital due to suicidal feelings. I tried to find support and have experienced great difficulties in getting it because the local providers' phone lines were constantly busy. Furthermore, I speak little English and have limited digital skills. I was referred to BHCAC by the Brent Hubs (Brent Council) for assistance to access benefits. BHCAC advised me on my entitlements and supported me with reporting a change in circumstances to the local authority in respect of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support as well as several claims including emergency food parcels, financial support from the local authority, Personal Independence Payment and liaison with a utility provider about debt. They were so good, and I was impressed with their negotiation which resulted in the utility debt of £285.16 written off. I am very grateful for the BHCAC support, I feel much better now knowing that they are there to support me all the way. They are very friendly and committed to the work they do, I had very easy access to them through WhatsApp mobile application and they always responded very quickly. They provided me with excellent help.”   

(Brent resident)

 

My partner and I were placed in emergency accommodation in Buckinghamshire by Brent Council and I was told by the Council Officer that someone will be in touch to provide further support. I am pregnant and was extremely worried as we were running out of everything and still had to wait 4 weeks for our first Universal Credit payment. On my way to Buckinghamshire, I  received a phone call from BHCAC Adviser who arranged emergency food parcel to be delivered to me the next day, also she assisted me with the claim for Housing Benefit and Local Emergency Support from Buckinghamshire Council as immediate support to last us until our first Universal Credit payment. I thank the BHCAC Adviser for her help, she has been an angel to us.”  

(Brent resident)

 

All I can say is WOW! I am blown away by the quick response and immense help given by BHCAC. What an amazing organisation! Thank you so much for helping Sam & John (not real names), even myself, during the difficult time!” 

 Housing Needs Officer (Brent Council)

 

My workplace closed as the result of Covid-19 lockdown and soon after that, I was illegally evicted along with my baby and partner. I could not access support on my own due to language barrier, lack of digital skills and knowledge on who to approach. I was referred to BHCAC by the Brent Hubs (Brent Council) for assistance to access benefits. BHCAC advised me on my entitlements and supported me with a number of claims including emergency food parcels, liaison with homelessness prevention team at Brent Council and my employer in respect of furlough payments. With BHCAC’s support, we were placed into emergency accommodation and received our entitlements. I am back to work now, and I really don’t have enough words to express how much their support meant to us. They made huge efforts in supporting us and I am so grateful for all they did, God bless them!

(Brent resident)

 

I am exceptionally pleased with your staff welcoming and professional approach. I am very thankful to Bosnian Centre continues support over the past four months. With your advice and support, I have secured all my entitlements; now I have an additional £82 per week coming in and I have also received just over £4,800 as a backdating payment. Thank you so much, this means a lot to me.”

(Brent resident)

  

On behalf of the residents and councillors of Brent, we thank you for your bravery, selflessness, compassion, commitment and sheer determination to go above and beyond in this crisis. We commend you and offer our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for everything you have done. Your work now and in the future will benefit generations to come and will not be forgotten.”

Mayor of the London Borough of Brent, Councillor Ernest Ezeajughi

 

As the representative Deputy Lieutenant for the Borough, I wanted to let you know that your organisation’s hard work is massively appreciated, especially in these fraught times. Your work and support for our Borough during this period exemplifies all that is good about our communities, our Borough and our City. Thank you.”

Kevin McGrath DL OBE

Representative Deputy Lieutenant for the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham

 

 Bosnia and Herzegovina Community Advice Centre

Charity Registration Number: 1085815