Research teams at CARBS and national Citizens Advice have released new data for the pandemic year April 2020 to March 2021. In Reigate and Banstead and across the UK demand for advice rose dramatically. The growth came in all channels: by phone, email and webchat and online pageviews.
Clients resident in Reigate and Banstead faced similar problems to citizens everywhere – as ever, pandemic or no pandemic, the most common were money matters. At local level, debts, benefits and money accounted for a smaller share (chart below and endnote), but our Universal Credit Help to Claim team was under pressure for months.
The data show interesting divergences however.
National Citizens Advice reports experience throughout the country in Life Through Lockdown (April 2021). At CARBS we recognise their ‘overnight transformation’ to an on-phone and online service and success in meeting increased demand. We promoted their campaigns to help government by pointing to gaps in employment support schemes and benefit issues. Their note on the effect of lockdown on traditional ‘weekday’ issues (income, debt, housing) and ‘weekend’ issues (relationships, family, wills) is a valuable insight: for a considerable period the difference disappeared.
The local and national findings confirm for us i) where in 2021-22 to continue building our advisers’ expertise, and ii) where to direct research and campaigns to improve policies and practice. CARBS priorities will reflect 3 ‘serious consequences’ of pandemic set out by Citizens Advice – the likely growth of problems with:
In the coming months we will promote our advice services more intensively and seek more local support for better policy in these areas.
NOTE The chart refers to new issues logged between 01.04.2020 and 31.03.2021. The 2021 Easter holiday coincided with the end of the CARBS financial year and marked 53 weeks of a new way of working. Throughout the year, CARBS advisers helped some clients not resident in Reigate and Banstead while other Local Citizens Advice helped some clients here. In our chart R&B Residents data capture both groups. To avoid over-complicating the chart, all issue codes that form 5% or less of the total have been combined into “All Others”.