‘THEY PAINT a picture of the worries of the nation’ – that is the view of the Citizens Advice Chief Executive after an increase in calls to the South Worcestershire service surrounding employment issues.
Citizens Advice South Worcestershire (CASW) feared a drop in demand in the absence of face-to-face personal interviews during the Coronavirus lockdown but, despite an actual decrease of one in four compared to the same time last year, more queries have been lodged by workers concerned about the jobs.
Dame Gillian Guy, the CEO of national Citizens Advice said after Government briefings or the evening news demand on the website spiked, with the relatively new benefit system ‘Universal Credit’ the most-searched term.
The CASW said its findings shed light on the pandemic’s impact on ordinary people.
Thanks to invaluable financial support from the Worcestershire Community Foundation and John Martin’s charity, the advisors have been able to work from home, taking calls.
And while they have been manning the phones, there has also been 13million page views on the national Citizens Advice website between March 16 and May 6 – a 29 per cent increase on last year.
South Worcestershire CEO Marie Henry praised her teams in Droitwich and Evesham for their resilience and flexibility.
“They have been marvellous – adapting seamlessly to the new normal.”
Marie said tracking the statistics had been ‘fascinating’.
“With businesses shutting or even ceasing to trade, we have seen an increase in enquiries about employment issues.
“Similarly many workers come to us for help to understand the furlough scheme.
“It’s not surprising that health concerns have tripled compared to last year.
“What hasn’t changed is that our high quality service is free to everybody in our community.”
She and her teams know the crisis is far from over an feel a ‘flotilla of new problems will arise’ as restrictions are lifted and the country returns to work.
“If unemployment rises we shall inevitably see an increased demand for information on benefits and debt.
“If people can’t pay their rent, this will generate cries for help with housing.”
Whatever happens, she said, people can depend on a friendly and knowledgeable CASW adviser being on the end of the phone or Internet to help with whatever challenges are faced by the people of South Worcestershire.
The CASW offices are open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday between 10am and 4pm.
The contact telephone number for Evesham and Droitwich is 01386 712100, choosing option 1 for general enquiries and 2 for Universal Credit Support.