The charity, which quickly adapted to help more people via the phone, email, and webchat, says Benefits, Housing and Employment have been its top pandemic issues.
Between 1st March 2020 and 28th February this year, it has helped 2,476 people with benefits including Universal Credit and 897 people with employment issues. It aims to find a way forward for people stuck with complicated problems.
There have been many worrying cases such as a family hit hard by the pandemic and a separate health issue for one of the breadwinners.
Citizens Advice IW was contacted by a parent liaison at a primary school as they were concerned when a parent told a teacher that they had run out of food. They were supported to make a Help Through Crisis (HTC) application, and it transpired that the family had taken on a personal loan to pay their mortgage and utility debts. They also needed help with school uniform for the children to return to school. HTC provided supermarket vouchers, a food bank voucher, and new shoes and school clothes for the children.
The family is supported by the Money Advice team who are in the process of negotiating with creditors and the Citizens Advice Tax team have helped the applicant complete her Self-Assessment tax return so that she would be eligible for a payment under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, and finally, partners at The Footprint Trust are sorting out the utility company bills.
Contacting the charity has changed with around 62% of people helped over the phone, 27% via email, 2% via webchat. This compares to the year before when 49% of people were helped face-to-face.
60 staff and volunteers have been working from their living rooms, dining tables, sheds and kitchens to make sure people could still access much-needed help.
Sandy Belfitt from Citizens Advice IW said:
“We’ve all been on a rollercoaster of change throughout this pandemic.
“We’ve spoken to people who’ve never used Citizens Advice before, have never claimed benefits before and have had a steady income for years, if not decades. Suddenly, they felt as if the rug has been pulled from under them and they don’t know what to do.
“We’re here to listen, support and then help them find a way forward, and it’s a reward to hear the relief in their voices at the end of the call.”
Paul Savill, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice IW said:
“I’d like to thank our staff and volunteers who’ve continued to help people find a way forward, as we face the problems of this pandemic together.
“Our advisers have been able to help people check what benefits they’re entitled to, navigate the furlough scheme, and ensure they’re getting all the help and support that is on offer.
“We know people are going to need our help as we begin on the road to recovery, and we urge anyone that needs some support to get in touch as soon as possible. We don’t judge how you are facing problems and encourage everyone to contact as soon as an issue looks unmanageable”.
For information and advice, call Citizens Advice IW on 0800 144 8848.