9,500 People helped during the last year of the pandemic
Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford and District has helped more than 9,500 people during the past year of the pandemic.
The charity, which quickly adapted to help more people via the phone, email and webchat, says benefit claims, finances and employment have been its top pandemic issues.
Between 1 March 2020 and 28 February this year, it has helped 1,200 people to access benefits, including supporting 900 clients with Universal Credit claims, and nearly 600 people with employment issues.
Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford and District has seen many worrying cases such as:
● An elderly lady worried about debt collection action by her energy company after her bills had been overestimated (she was unable to access her meter to take a reading). With our help, the energy company repaid hundreds of pound, based on the energy she had actually used.
● Hundreds of clients who have lost jobs and had to apply for benefits for the first time. One client told us: “I didn’t know where to start, it all seemed so confusing. Citizens Advice helped me understand what I was entitled to and even helped to apply for Universal Credit.”
● A client who had been struggling with the cost heating his home. We were able to help him access a Warm Homes grant and carried out a free energy health-check to make sure he was on the best value tariff to help him reduce his bills.
● Lock down has added to extra pressure to relationships. We’ve supported clients to leave unsafe environments and find a way forward.
Around 75% of people were helped over the phone, 16% via email, 4% via webchat and less than 5% face to face. This compares to the year before when 55% of people were helped face-to-face at our offices or outreach locations.
Around 40 staff and volunteers have been working from their living rooms, dining tables and kitchens to make sure people could still access much-needed help. Our local offices were also adapted to offer a socially distanced face-to-face service, in line with government guidelines, recognising that not everyone can access services online or by telephone.
Becky Chapman, Learning and Development Lead, Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford and District 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 feel 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.”
Dr Mel Jones, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford and District 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.”
For information and advice, contact Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford and District on Adviceline (Freephone) 0800 144 8848 or email via our website www.cadat.org.uk
We plan to reopen our face-to-face advice service initially by appointment only, in the coming weeks, following government guidance on easing lockdown restrictions.
Note to editors
For more information contact: Caroline Mackinson
Telephone: 01379 658200
1. The percentages may add up to more than 100% if some people were helped by more than one channel.