Lockdown began on 23 March 2020. CARBS offices closed immediately. Overnight nearly half those who urgently needed help could no longer come in.
Our advisers quickly adapted to help people by phone, email and webchat. Between 1 March 2020 and 28 February 2021 we helped over 5200 people – 53% by phone, 29% by email, 10% by webchat and just 8% in person (in early March).
In the same period the year before, we met 47% of people at our offices or outreach centres.
Our Advice Services Manager, Mandy Impey, said:
“We’ve been on a rollercoaster year of change throughout the pandemic. We’ve spoken to people who have never come to Citizens Advice before and never claimed benefits. They’ve had a steady income for years, if not decades. Suddenly, they feel the rug has been pulled from under them and aren’t sure which way to turn.”
Andrea Dunhill, Chief Executive, said:
“I’d like to thank our staff and volunteers for working tirelessly to help people check the benefits they’re entitled to, navigate the furlough scheme, and make sure they get all the support that is on offer. We know residents will continue to seek help as we start the road to recovery. They shouldn’t wait and let problems get worse but make contact with us as soon as possible.”
The top 4 pandemic problems were Benefits, Tax Credits, Housing and Employment. They helped 2700 with benefits (including Universal Credit) and 900 with problems at work, including redundancy and payment. Citizens Advice Reigate and Banstead has seen many cases made worse by lockdown:
– A middle-aged disabled client with no dependents and self-isolating trying to juggle debts and living expenses.
– A cancer patient returning to work part-time was furloughed on 80% of his part-time rather than full-time salary.
– A single mum with 3 children living in damp accommodation – lockdown caused new problems and made existing ones harder.
Note for Editors
To get advice, people should contact Citizens Advice Reigate and Banstead on 0808 278 7945 Monday to Friday 0900-1600 or go to: www.carbs.org.uk