Monthly Archives: April 2020

‘One in five to need support from benefits system amid employment crisis’ as Citizens Advice Ipswich helps over 500 cases with benefits and employment since lockdown

New research from Citizens Advice reveals one fifth (20%) of UK adults say they have applied or expect to apply for benefits as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This rises to 68% of people on zero-hours contracts.

In Ipswich, Citizens Advice have supported clients with over 500 queries relating to benefits and employment issues. These issues range from how do I make a claim for benefit, how do the government schemes relate to me, is my employer acting reasonably?

The findings come as government data today shows over 1.5 million households made a Universal Credit claim between 1st March and 12th April. First payments for those who applied for the benefit immediately following the lockdown are due tomorrow.

Figures from Citizens Advice show around six million people in the UK (18% of the total workforce) have already seen their hours cut, been laid off or made redundant.

The charity, which has seen nearly 2.5 million views of its online advice on employment and benefits issues since the lockdown began, says gaps in the jobs protections schemes could be increasing the number forced to apply for the benefit. This includes people who are recently self-employed or at higher risk of coronavirus, such as those who are pregnant or have diabetes.

The swift redeployment of staff by the Department for Work and Pensions has helped respond to an unprecedented surge in demand on the benefits system and ensured people can access financial support.

However, insights from frontline advisers at Citizens Advice show the claims process remains problematic for some groups, such as those who don’t have ID or a bank account or those without an internet connection. Accessibility issues have been exacerbated by the necessary temporary closure of libraries and job centres.

Meanwhile 15% of people anticipate having to borrow money from friends or family to cope with the five-week wait before payment if they do have to apply for Universal Credit.

Citizens Advice is recommending the government make immediate changes to Universal Credit so that those who have lost income as a result of coronavirus can access adequate support quickly without getting into debt.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“Behind today’s figures are families whose world has been turned upside down by coronavirus.

“The Government has worked hard to shore up protections for workers and process soaring claims for Universal Credit. But we know that some people are still slipping through the safety net, often with desperate consequences.

“Plugging the remaining gaps in the employment support schemes could protect more jobs. And for those needing support from the benefits system, turning advance payments into a grant would really ease the burden.”

Nelleke van Helfteren, Deputy Manager, Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“Since the lockdown, Citizens Advice Ipswich alone has dealt with over 500 cases where clients are seeking advice on benefits and how to claim them as well as worries about their work, and this is without our usual face to face service which helps the most vulnerable people in our community, many of whom currently cannot access our service due to lack of digital connectivity.

“Our advisers are receiving calls every day from people whose livelihood has simply disappeared due to this pandemic. Some lost their jobs or were in unstable work when the crisis hit, and others have no income until the self-employed support scheme kicks in.”

“Staff are working flat out to help them with their concerns. Alongside issues with making an online application for Universal Credit, we’re seeing a lot of people struggling simply because they’ve never had to access the benefits system. There’s a huge demand for advice. We are bracing ourselves as we know that beyond lockdown we will be really stretched to help households get back on an even keel: financially, sorting housing issues, accessing benefits and getting back to work. It is not going to be simple or quick. This pandemic will have lasting consequences for the most vulnerable and those households who never thought they were in that category.”

“We urge people not to worry alone – we are here to help and can be contacted by phone on 0300 330 1151 or by email via this website.”

David Sheepshanks CBE DL praises the work of Citizens Advice across Suffolk

Citizens Advice in Suffolk bosses say ‘we’re still here’ as over 1500 people helped since the lock-down commenced.

We may be closed to face-to-face clients, but clients can still get help by phone and email throughout the county.

Since 23 March we have helped over 1500 people across Suffolk who have been affected by the coronavirus crisis and the Government lockdown, whether it be work worries, or on-going issues that are made more difficult due to isolation and lack of access to services.

We are adapting our advice and guidance following on-going announcements by the Government on how they will help people whose livelihoods are affected by the virus.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“Probably the biggest area of calls we are getting at the moment are work-related. to do with the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and employees’ 80% subsidy as well as queries from self-employed people wondering what their entitlements will be.”

“At the moment there’s a lot of misunderstanding. A lot of people think they are going to get the money next week. A lot of what we are doing is explaining what the process and procedure is, who qualifies and how people will be able to apply. People who have never accessed our service before are now contacting us for guidance on the way forward.”

Calls and emails are being redirected to service staff and volunteers away from the offices. In the two weeks since lock down, Citizens Advice in Ipswich, for example, has set up over 50 staff and volunteers to access the necessary technology to be able to deliver advice and support work from home. We are delivering much needed confidential, impartial and independent help and support in our own dining rooms, spare rooms, sitting rooms and in a couple of cases, sheds.”

Since 23 March advisers in Ipswich have helped over 300 clients with over 1000 issues. The service continues to support on-going clients with debt and help with Universal Credit and other benefits, which coronavirus is also affecting, as the Job Centre changes its operations.

Mrs Willshere added:

“We are doing our best to respond to as many enquiries as we can. It’s always more difficult over the telephone than face to face. We are also working with other voluntary agencies as well as our Council and Health colleagues to make sure the most vulnerable people across the County get the support they need.”

“I am incredibly proud of my team who have worked tirelessly to make sure that clients can get through for help.”

David Sheepshanks CBE DL, President of Citizens Advice in Ipswich, added his voice:

“Our teams across Citizens Advice in Suffolk never cease to amaze me. All too rarely do we recognise our Unsung Heroes and even less do we understand who they are or the vital services they fulfil. Despite operating remotely, in this unprecedented state of isolation, lockdown and hardship, I have nothing short of total admiration for the way in which they have helped over 1500 people through various states of financial worry and despair in a mere fortnight. As we rightly applaud and thank the wider NHS teams for their unstinting work, so too can we next time please applaud the other unsung heroes that keep our lives going, none more than our heroic Citizens Advice teams in Suffolk. We salute you!”

To get advice check out the website Citizensadvice.org.uk or telephone Suffolk Adviceline on 0300 330 1151

To contact the Citizens Advice in your area

 

Local Citizens Advice

Telephone

Email

Ipswich

0300 330 1151

https://www.citizensadviceipswich.org.uk/?page_id=876

Felixstowe

 0300 330 9016

 

 

Email: advice@felixstowecab.org.uk

 

Leiston

Phone – 01728 832193 (Leiston office – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10-2) ● Suffolk Advice Line – 0300 330 1151/Advice line – 03444 111 444

 

supervisor@leistoncab.cabnet.org.uk

Mid Suffolk

01449 676060 / 01449 676280

 

https://www.midsuffolkcab.org.uk/contact-us/

 

North East Suffolk

01502 518510  / 01502 717715

 

 

www.northeastsuffolkcab.org.uk/contact/

Or bureau@nescab.cabnet.org.uk

 

Sudbury

01787 321400

 

https://www.sudburycab.org.uk/contact

 

Suffolk West

0300 330 1151

https://suffolkwestcab.org.uk/contact-us/

 

Citizens Advice Universal Credit – Help to Claim Line 

 

Free phone  0800 144 8444

Text  18001 0800 144 8444

 

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/universal-credit/claiming/helptoclaim/

 

Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline

 

 

Telephone   0808 223 1133
Textphone  18001 0808 223 1133

 

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/get-more-help/if-you-need-more-help-about-a-consumer-issue/