CITIZENS Advice throughout Dorset has put special measures in place so that local people can continue to get help during the coronavirus crisis and as lockdown eases.
The service is now preparing to give additional support to help local residents begin to get back to normal.
In the first phase of the pandemic, following government guidelines, volunteers quickly adapted to the change in their working environment from no longer offering face to face appointments to working from home, whilst providing phone and digital advice. This resulted in many people and advisers having to learn new skills and taking on new roles.
Since the start of lockdown on March 23 until June 1, Citizens Advice across Dorset helped over 2,000 people with over 6,000 issues. The type of issues include supporting vulnerable residents who are shielding; providing employment and benefits advice to employees now on furlough or at risk of redundancy; guidance for returning to work; family and relationship advice and much more.
In recent weeks Citizens Advice has seen a big increase in the number of people using the service to seek help for key subjects such as Universal Credit and employment, and expects demand to grow considerably across all subject areas as lockdown eases and government schemes come to an end.
Citizens Advice is now focused on the recovery phase and is working to anticipate high demand as the lockdown eases and the government support schemes scale back.
Rovarn Wickremasinghe, chief officer, Bridport & District said: “At the moment the best way to contact us locally is by leaving a telephone message or by sending an email – see details below. We will then contact people promptly by phone to help them find a way forward.
“Additionally, from Tuesday, July 21 we will be offering a limited drop-in service for people who are unable to leave a message or need to come in to see us. Sessions will be held at 45 South Street, Bridport, DT6 3NY, Monday to Friday from 10am and will follow government social-distancing guidelines.
“We are an independent charity and never before has it been so critical for us to secure additional funding to allow us to continue to meet demand. We are extremely grateful for the financial support we receive from Lyme Regis Town Council and parish councils in the area.
“At the same time, responding to the crisis is an opportunity to build upon existing partnerships and form new ones for the benefit of local people, including working with LymeForward, Lyme Regis Food Bank, Lyme Regis Medical Centre and the Town Council.’’
Clients can contact Citizens Advice by calling 01308 456594 or the Dorset Advice Line on 03444 111 444 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
People having problems with Universal Credit can contact Citizens Advice on a national freephone number which is 0800-144-8444. There is also a Universal Credit webchat support service available through the website www.citizensadvice.org.uk which in itself is a rich resource full of information.
Citizens Advice help is always free, confidential, independent and impartial.