Bishop's Stortord's Citizens Advice ready to help this Christmas
Bishop's Stortford's Citizens Advice team is gearing up for a busy Christmas as the effects of coronavirus continue to kick in.
The charity Citizens Advice East Herts (CAEH) – which has main offices in South Street and in Hertford and outreach locations in Sawbridgeworth, Ware and Buntingford – took its free and confidential services online to cope with the pandemic and has seen a surge in requests for help throughout 2020 with no sign of a let-up.
Last month alone there was a fourfold increase in food bank vouchers issued by staff to individuals and families in need.
A spokeswoman said: "Thanks to our amazing team of trained volunteer advisers and our supporters, we have been able to help over 6,000 people since lockdown started at the end of March.
"We're really keen to get the word out that we're here to help over the Christmas period as we know this can be a stressful time for many."
The charity can give advice and support by phone, email, online and in person, and can issue food bank and fuel vouchers where needed. For more information visit www.citizensadviceeastherts.org.uk or call 01920 459944.
In the eight months from March 23 to November 30, CAEH helped 5,914 clients – up 29% on the corresponding period in 2019 – with 10,951 issues, an increase of 11% on the previous year.
Work inquiries rose 127%. The top four advice areas were benefits and tax credits, employment, Universal Credit and housing.
As the pandemic has progressed, advisors have reported an increase in clients without any disability or long-term health issues, up to 74% from 55% before Covid-19.
While the percentage of women asking for help has remained constant at 60%, the age profile of those seeking guidance has changed, with most requests coming from those aged 25-34. In 2019, those aged 55-59 and 35-39 were most in need.
Nationally, Citizens Advice reports that a page on redundancy was the most viewed on its website.
In Christmas week, help will be available from Citizens Advice East Herts from 10am to 4pm Monday to Wednesday (Dec 21-23) and from 10am to 1pm on Christmas Eve (Thu Dec 24). The following week, advisors will be on duty from Tuesday to Thursday (Dec 29-31) from 10am to 1pm. Normal hours resume on January 4.
There is a range of useful information and links online at citizensadviceeastherts.org.uk.