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1,500 seek help in coronavirus crisis from Citizens Advice in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 06:22 07 April 2020 | UPDATED: 07:45 07 April 2020

Citizens Advice in Suffolk is providing advice over the phone during the coronavirus lockdown. This picture was taken ahead of the government's shutdown measures. Picture: CITIZENS ADVICE MID SUFFOLK

Citizens Advice in Suffolk is providing advice over the phone during the coronavirus lockdown. This picture was taken ahead of the government's shutdown measures. Picture: CITIZENS ADVICE MID SUFFOLK

CITIZENS ADVICE MID SUFFOLK

More than 1,500 people have sought help from Suffolk’s Citizens Advice services to cope with work worries, money problems and isolation during the coronavirus lockdown.

Nicky Willshire, chief officer at Citizens Advice Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWNNicky Willshire, chief officer at Citizens Advice Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The charity said it was trying to guide people through employment concerns in particular, amid “a lot of misunderstanding” over the government’s job retention scheme and the support available for self-employed workers.

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Citizens Advice was one of the many community services forced to close following the lockdown announced on March 23, put in place to protect people’s health and stop the spread of the virus.

Yet being closed to face-to-face visitors has not stopped people contacting the organisation for help, with 300 people in Ipswich supported by more than 50 staff and volunteers over the past two weeks.

Citizens Advice Ipswich has helped 300 people in a fortnight. This photo was taken before the government lockdown. Picture: LUCY TAYLORCitizens Advice Ipswich has helped 300 people in a fortnight. This photo was taken before the government lockdown. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Across the whole county, more than 1,500 have been given help by volunteers taking redirected calls at their homes.

MORE: Sign up for all the latest coronavirus news in Suffolk here

However, the charity says it is having to continuously adapt its advice and guidance following ongoing announcements by the government about how it will support those affected.

Nicky Willshere, chief officer at Citizens Advice Ipswich, said: “Probably the biggest area of calls we are getting at the moment are work-related to do with the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme and employees’ 80% subsidy, as well as queries from self-employed people wondering what their entitlements will be.

Citizens Advice has helped people with a range of issues. This photo was taken before the government lockdown. Picture: LUCY TAYLORCitizens Advice has helped people with a range of issues. This photo was taken before the government lockdown. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

“At the moment there’s a lot of misunderstanding. A lot of people think they are going to get the money next week.

“A lot of what we are doing is explaining what the process and procedure is, who qualifies and how people will be able to apply.

“People who have never accessed our service before are now contacting us for guidance on the way forward.

“We are delivering much-needed confidential, impartial and independent help and support in our own dining rooms, spare rooms, sitting rooms and, in a couple of cases, sheds.

“We are doing our best to respond to as many enquiries as we can. It’s always more difficult over the telephone than face-to-face.

“We are also working with other voluntary agencies, as well as our council and health colleagues, to make sure the most vulnerable people across the county get the support they need.

“I am incredibly proud of my team who have worked tirelessly to make sure that clients can get through for help.”

MORE: All of the coronavirus news in Suffolk

Former Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks, who is president of Citizens Advice in Ipswich, said he had “nothing short of total admiration for the way in which they have helped over 1,500 people through various states of financial worry and despair in a mere fortnight”.

He added: “Our teams across Citizens Advice in Suffolk never cease to amaze me.

“All too rarely do we recognise our unsung heroes and even less do we understand who they are or the vital services they fulfil.

“As we rightly applaud and thank the wider NHS teams for their unstinting work, so too can we next time please applaud the other unsung heroes that keep our lives going, none more than our heroic Citizens Advice teams in Suffolk.

“We salute you!”

Visit the Citizens Advice website or call the Suffolk Adviceline on 0300 330 1151.


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