Citizens Advice Winchester District supported over 2000 local residents, with nearly 5000 different issues, in the first 13 weeks following the Covid-19 lockdown which came into place at the end of March. This is almost double the number of people, and issues, they helped in the 13 weeks prior to Covid-19 lockdown in mid-March this year.
This demonstrates that Covid-19 is having a huge impact on people’s lives across the District, beyond the immediate health crisis and need for food and medical supplies. Much of this increase has been in local people seeking their advice on employment, housing, and managing finances, including benefits applications.
Perhaps surprisingly, the numbers of people seeking their advice on how to manage debt has decreased, and the charity is concerned this may be due to people putting off seeking help with growing debts. They want to urge anyone who is worried about debt to contact them for free, independent advice on dealing with this.
The Citizens Advice service has been operating in the Winchester area for almost 70 years and has a workforce of around 100 highly trained staff and volunteers. During lockdown, the charity has temporarily suspended its face-to-face services and has been successfully delivering phone and email advice to people across the District.
Jim, a volunteer adviser who’s been with the charity for 10 years says: “I’ve spoken to many clients over the past few weeks who are finding themselves in a situation they never could have envisaged at the start of the year.
Being able to provide support and advice to people within our community, particularly at a time like this, is so important and can make such a difference to the mental, emotional and financial wellbeing of an individual or family.”
Citizens Advice Winchester District is preparing itself for a continued upward trend in client numbers and is planning to operate their enhanced phone and email advice service for as long as necessary. They are also working alongside other local organisations and services to help reach the most vulnerable people within the community.
Sue Campbell, Chief Officer for the charity says: “I am so proud of how our staff and volunteers have responded to delivering advice remotely and managed so well with such a huge increase in client enquiries.
Delivering sound, high quality advice at a time of crisis such as this is an essential service for the community, and we’ll continue to provide support to anyone who needs our advice - from a simple query to someone with multiple, complex issues.”
If you need advice, you can contact Citizens Advice Winchester District in the following ways:
Local Call Back Service: 01962 848003 or 01489 890940
Regional Adviceline: 03444 111 306