BRIDPORT and District Citizens Advice continues to provide a service by telephone, email and web chat to replace the face to face appointments during the coronavirus emergency.
A local number is available so clients can now phone and leave a message on 01308 456594 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be called back.
Additionally, calls to Dorset Adviceline 03444 111 444 are staffed by advisers and webchat is available on Citizens Advice website www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Figures from Citizens Advice show around six million people in the UK (18 per cent of the total workforce) have already seen their hours cut, been laid off or made redundant.
Dame Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Last month we helped millions of people. Behind each enquiry was a family struggling to pay rent, someone self-employed who could no longer afford their bills, or a person attempting to claim benefits for the first time.
“These personal stories combine to paint a bigger picture of how lives have been interrupted by coronavirus.
“Not only will we continue to help as many people as we can with their individual problems, we’ll use that bigger picture to advocate for change to make sure no one is left behind.”
New research from Citizens Advice reveals one fifth (20 per cent) of UK adults say they have applied or expect to apply for benefits as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This rises to 68 per cent of people on zero-hours contracts.
The findings come as government data on April 21 shows over 1.5 million households made a Universal Credit claim between March 1 and April 12.
The swift redeployment of staff by the Department for Work and Pensions has helped respond to an unprecedented surge in demand on the benefits system and ensured people can access financial support.
However, insights from frontline advisers at Citizens Advice show the claims process remains problematic for some groups, such as those who don’t have ID or a bank account or those without an internet connection.
Accessibility issues have been exacerbated by the necessary temporary closure of libraries and job centres.
Meanwhile 15 per cent of people anticipate having to borrow money from friends or family to cope with the five-week wait before payment if they do have to apply for Universal Credit.
Advisers at Bridport & District Citizens Advice can support clients over the phone with general benefits queries and problems.
For Universal Credit there is a dedicated national Citizens Advice service called ‘Help to Claim’ which can be accessed via the Citizens Advice website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/universal-credit/claiming/helptoclaim/#h-our-help-to-claim-service or by phoning 0800 144 8444. The website also has a Benefits Calculator for people to check entitlement.
Since the charity started recording coronavirus problems a third of the queries have been related to employment issues. The local economy is dependent on tourism and has been particularly hard hit by the crisis with many hospitality businesses closing down and people being laid off rather than furloughed.
Those who are self-employed or on zero hours contracts have also faced serious challenges and Citizens Advice can help people in these situations find a way forward.
One of the most viewed pages on the Citizens Advice website is ‘If you can’t pay your bills because of coronavirus’ which indicates the deep anxiety felt by people facing financial hardship.
Bridport and District Citizens Advice can support clients with housing and rent problems, general debt management guidance, utility payment plans and energy issues. Referrals can also be made to local foodbanks and charities providing grants to the most vulnerable.