Citizens Advice in Dorset (CAiD) has helped more than 13,500 people during the past year of the pandemic.
The charity, which quickly adapted to help more people via the phone, email and webchat, says benefit, debt, housing and employment advice have been its top pandemic issues.
Between 23rd March 2020 and 23 March this year, it has helped over 7000 people with benefits including Universal Credit, and over 1600 people with employment issues.
Citizens Advice in Dorset has seen many worrying cases such as a *hospitality worker who was dismissed from work for raising safety issues related to the impact of Covid-19 and safe working practices.
Over 400 staff and volunteers have been working from their living rooms, dining tables and kitchens to make sure people could still access much-needed help via multiple channels including phone, email, letter, webchat and video-conferencing when face to face services have not been available.
Rovarn Wickremasinghe, Chief Officer, Bridport Citizens Advice, said: “We’ve all been on a rollercoaster of change throughout this pandemic.
“We’ve spoken to people who’ve never used Citizens Advice before, have never claimed benefits before and have had a steady income for years, if not decades. Suddenly, they feel if the rug has been pulled from under them and they don’t know what to do. We’re here to listen, support and then help them find a way forward, and it’s a reward to hear the relief in their voices at the end of the call.”
Rovarn continues: “I’d like to thank our staff and volunteers who’ve continued to help people find a way forward, as we face the problems of this pandemic together.
“Our advisers have been able to help people check what benefits they’re entitled to, navigate the furlough scheme, and ensure they’re getting all the help and support that is on offer.
“We know people are going to need our help as we begin on the road to recovery, and we urge anyone that needs some support to get in touch as soon as possible.”
Residents can call the Dorset Adviceline on 0800 144 8848 or can visit www.citizensadvicedorset.org.uk.