Citizens Advice has seen record-breaking demand for advice since the escalation of the coronavirus pandemic – with 50% more people visiting the national website.
But how does this need for advice breakdown for West Oxfordshire?
In the second week of March, the charity saw an increase in people asking about holidays and event cancellations. Since then there is a growing trend of people worried about whether they can cover their essential living costs.
In West Oxfordshire, the number one concern at the moment is about benefits and tax credits. People need advice and support on what benefits they are entitled to if they have lost work, are self-isolating or are self-employed and earning less. There have been many changes and our national website is being updated constantly with the most recent information. If people need more help to understand what they are entitled to, and support to make a claim, we can help.
The next key area of advice is debt and the biggest concern is what to do if people can’t pay their bills because of coronavirus. This includes paying for council tax, rent arrears and credit card debts. The charity is advising people not to ignore bills and speak to the organisation that they have a debt with to discuss paying in smaller amounts or take a break.
The need for employment advice has dramatically increased over the last 3 weeks, overtaking housing advice which is usually the charity’s next top area of advice. The main questions are around terms of employment, pay and entitlements and dismissal. The charity is also helping to advise on the government Coronavirus Job Retention scheme (Furlough) for people who suddenly have no work to do.
Teresa Archer, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire, said:
“Our staff and volunteers are working from home to ensure that we are still here to give and advice and support during these unprecedented times. All of our services are available by phone or email, and we urge anyone who is concerned to get in touch. Whether it is employment advice, concerns about paying the bills, or people without money or food, we can help“
Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire are encouraging people to first look for advice online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/coronavirus. If an answer cannot be found, please call our Adviceline on 0300 330 9049 on Monday to Friday between 09:30am and 16:30.