Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice service sees client numbers almost double since lockdown

The number of people seeking help from Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice has almost doubled since lockdown was introduced.

Citizen's Advice in Bognor Regis
Citizen's Advice in Bognor Regis

In the last month, the service has helped 1,313 people – almost double the 692 clients it saw on average each month last year.

Of the issues people were seeking support with, 1,155 were welfare benefit, 423 were employment, 197 housing and 134 health and community care.

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More than 400 of the benefit enquiries related to Universal Credit initial claims.

Of all the people supported, 420 had either a long-term health condition or a disability.

At the same time as dealing with this rise in demand for its service, the organisation has had to completely transform the way it works.

Since the Prime Minister’s announcement of the lockdown measures on March 23, all paid staff have been working from home.

In order to keep all staff and volunteers up to date with the latest news and government updates, daily virtual briefings have been taking place with the whole team and supervisors have been on-hand to help at the click of a button.

The service has identified volunteers who would be able to help deliver food parcels and top-up pre-payment meters to the shielded or self-isolated.

It has also individually contacted every single volunteer, who was unable for a reason or another to provide the service from home, to make sure that they are okay and find out if they need support. 

The service has now held its first online training session and plans to deliver more soon.

It will also be helping clients through video conferencing and screen sharing very soon.

By contracting Language Line, it has made sure that language is no longer a barrier in seeking advice. 

This service has proved essential for a Romanian couple who have lost their jobs as a result of the Coronavirus and needed assistance to access the food bank, applying for pre-settled status, seeking welfare support and communicating with their employer and landlord.

Through all this, the management team has also had to deal with end of year financial accounting, creating development plans, exit strategies, funding applications, dealing with stakeholders and prepare for their Leadership Self-Assessment.

Luca Badioli, CEO of Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice, said: “It wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our incredible volunteers and paid staff.

“We’ll continue to support the community through this difficult time whilst developing and improving our service.”

Anyone who needs help from Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice, call 0344 477 1171 or webchat through www.citizensadvice.org.uk

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