The Wokingham Paper

CITIZENS ADVICE: Helping Wokingham’s people through the recession

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Wokingham Citizens Advice Jake Morrison

THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic has substantially rocked the country and the world.

We’re heading through really challenging and difficult times, and many individuals and families continue to feel the knock-on effects of the global pandemic.

We are seeing unemployment rising, and an announcement this week that the UK has fallen into recession. This is really difficult for people across our communities.

At the start of the pandemic, we promised the people of Wokingham Borough that Citizens Advice Wokingham would be here to help you through this, to ensure that no-one felt left behind — but also that we would continue to be here to help pick up the pieces.

That is proving to be the reality.  Recently we talked about having a 256% increase in employment related enquiries in the last three months, compared to the same period last year. In fact in 2020 to-date, we have helped 3,939 people to find a way forward with 9,301 problems. In the whole of 2019 we helped 2,641 people, which was far more than the year before.

I cannot be more proud to lead a team of 80 volunteers and 11 staff (six full- time equivalents) working with 11 supportive trustees. At the start of this year we set out to be the go-to charity, to ensure that you have the support that you need, when you need it.

They have delivered over and beyond anything we could have anticipated at that stage, and continue to do so with empathy, warmth and determination to help you overcome any obstacles.

Having worked for Citizens Advice charities across England for a couple of years now, I will continue to shout about the work we do, because it’s important people know about the depth and breadth of things we can help with.

Thinking back to that very long time ago when I was a child, Citizens Advice could have helped us transform our lives — if only we’d known the extent of what they can help guide us through. If you’re looking for help navigating a way forward — please reach out to us. If we cannot help, we hopefully know a service that can, and we will help you access that — that’s why we’ve been proud to run the One Front Door since March.

Our advice and information services can particularly help with the following examples:

  • A benefits check to ensure you’re applying for the right level of support, at the start of the pandemic we helped a significant number of people on self-employed income queries
  • Exploring options to manage your debts, including reviewing your income and expenditure
  • Talking through your current or previous employment queries, sometimes this includes questions around whether the correct process was followed or whether any discrimination was involved
  • Housing problems
  • We can help people with their EU Settled Status application and have helped clients with the Windrush compensation scheme
  • Helping people in a domestic violence situation explore the ‘what if’ scenarios to empower them to move forward, such as housing status, finances

Or often it’s simply a person to run an issue by and check that you’re heading on the right path.  If your issue isn’t highlighted above, please continue to reach out or check our website to find out more information

We also have some caseworkers who can help you with more complex situations, maybe you’ve had a substantial life-changing experience, or complex debts — reach out to our service and they can refer you in for further help.

With confidence, we can say that you can reach our service very quickly.  Our average time it takes to connect your call to ring through to an available initial checker, when we’re open, is 0.02 seconds. We have answered 96% of calls consistently since April, with significantly higher demand, and continue to do so, ensuring you can reach us when you need us.

We’re here to help you find a way forward, we’ve been here to support our communities through the lockdown stages of the pandemic, and our charity will continue to be here to support you through the next chapter.

Our adviceline is available Monday through to Friday 9am-5pm and Saturday’s 9am-1pm on 0300 330 1189.

You can also visit our website: www.citizensadvicewokingham.org.uk

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