“WE’RE here to help” – that’s the message from Redditch Citizens Advice Bureau which says no one need face the challenges generated by coronavirus without help and advice.
The charity, together with its sister Bromsgrove office, has helped nearly 400 people since the onset of the Covid-19 lockdown on March 23.
In response it quickly mobilised its staff and volunteers, who between them have a wealth of knowledge, to give one to one advice over the phone and email on topics ranging from employment law, debt, relationships and benefits.
That help extends to assisting people navigating the government’s job support schemes, and worries over how to manage the bills.
Normally based at Redditch Town Hall but now working from home, senior supervisor Sally Tucker said: “We are here to help – the team we have here have a huge range of knowledge and if we don’t have the answer we can take issues up to the next level.”
She added the information given is up to the minute – and completely free.
Since lockdown the local team has seen an increase of 350 per cent of self-employed people seeking help.
More than a third of cases have been about accessing Universal Credit while the most viewed page on their website has been what to do ‘if your employer has told you not to work’ which has had nearly 340,000 views so far.
Sally said: “Some of our example cases include questions like ‘My income has dropped due to coronavirus and I’m struggling to keep up with all of my bills. I rent my house from a private landlord and pay all the usual bills. How best can I juggle them, and is there any help I can get from the government?’
“Another is: ‘My workplace is insisting I come into work, but I don’t think it’s safe. What should I do?’
“Or ‘My children’s school has closed and I do not have child care, I need to keep my job. Do I have any rights to money? Can I keep my job?'”
Citizens Advice was founded the day after World War Two was declared to support people at a time of national need.
Eighty years later it is still here in a time of national need providing free, impartial, independent and confidential advice to anyone who needs it.
The CAB can be contacted directly on 0300 330 2157 Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
● Chat online to an advisor – citizensadvice.org.uk/contact-us.
● Consumer issues phone – 0808 223 1133
● Universal Credit Help to Claim – 0800 1448444