Citizens Advice drop-in service to reopen

Citizens Advice South Essex is reopening its drop-in service and recruiting volunteers as it prepares for a wave of debt problems.

The charity, which has helped almost 6,600 people since lockdown began, has seen demand for employment advice triple, and requests for help with Universal Credit and benefits advice more than double.

But demand for one-to-one debt advice has dropped from more than 500 people during April, to just 120 in July.

Citizens Advice South Essex hopes reopening its drop-in service will help people get the debt help they need.

Kathy Kentish, chief executive of Citizens Advice South Essex, said: “While it’s unsurprising that demand for employment and benefits advice has massively increased, I’m worried that the need for debt help has gone under the radar.

“We’re worried that people feel overwhelmed and simply unable to tackle mounting debt on top of dealing with the day-to-day more immediate problems, such as putting food on the table.

“We want people to know that we’re here to help them every step of the way, and the sooner they come and see us the sooner we can help them get back on track.”

The charity, which has helped hundreds of extra people since lockdown compared to the same period last year, is recruiting more volunteers.

From August 24, Citizens Advice South Essex will run video drop-in sessions between 9.30am and 12pm on Mondays and Thursdays.

Advisers will be able to help a maximum of two people at any one time via video link between separate rooms.

Citizens Advice South Essex provides free, impartial and confidential advice across Basildon, Billericay, Brentwood, Castle Point, Rayleigh, Rochford, Thurrock and Wickford.

There are a number of ways people can continue to get advice during this time:

·General advice will be given via the Adviceline which people can reach by calling 0300 330 2101. This is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

·Anyone seeking support to make a new claim for Universal Credit should call the Universal Credit Help to Claim line on 0800 1448444.

·The Money Adviceline number 01277 358082. This is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

·The Billericay Adviceline 01277 358080, also open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

·People can chat online to an advisor by visiting our website at citizensadvice.org.uk/contact-us.

·People looking for advice on consumer issues (e.g. issues related to products or services you’ve purchased) can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 or chat online to an adviser on our website.

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]