01:23PM, Thursday 30 September 2021
Citizens Advice East Berkshire has urged residents to call them with any financial concerns following announcements on increased costs of living.
From October 1, the energy price cap is set to rise by £139 a year for a typical customer, and the £20-a-week COVID-relief uplift to Universal Credit is set to end.
Citizens Advice East Berkshire (CAEB), which merged Maidenhead & Windsor Citizens Advice Bureau with Bracknell & District branch, says it is experiencing a lot of calls at the moment.
From April 2020 to March 2021, Maidenhead & Windsor CAB helped more than 5,000 clients. Since the merger, CAEB’s offices are seeing an average of 870 clients a month.
“We’re definitely seeing more people coming forward asking for help,” said Jeremy Sandell, chief executive of CAEB.
“Its been continuing to rise over the past few months, and it’s a deterioration in their personal circumstances driving it.
“People are in a really desperate situation, unable to pay essential bills and living off credit,” he added.
The subject most callers want to talk about at the moment is Universal Credit.
“When you’re talking about low fixed income, £20 a week can be an incredibly significant drop,” said Jeremy. “It is a huge loss to an awful lot of families.”
CAEB can help manage debt or maximise someone’s income by helping them discover and claim all the financial help they are entitled to.
Last year, the service generated an income gain of £1.3m for its service-users in Windsor and Maidenhead and supported them to write off £260,000 worth of debt.
It commonly helps with navigating reductions on council tax, debt relief orders and personal independence payments (PIP) for those with long term physical or mental health conditions.
Jeremy says that many of the forms people are asked to fill out are highly complicated, leading to a lot of frustration.
CAEB can help service-users understand these and can make coordinated calls to link to other bodies, such as the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions.
It can also help those who struggle to access information online – a growing disparity as more and more information appears on the internet.
CAEB is planning to get back to its offices for drop-ins soon. For the time being, appointments can be made to meet in person.
It is also planning to soon restart its outreach services, which includes a presence in local libraries.
Until then, the service urges those in need of financial help to call and stay on the line – even if put on hold for some time.
“We have about 100 volunteers, but we work with other Citizens Advice services to pick up calls.
“It’s hard for people who are going through a difficult set of circumstances who want to talk to someone right away.
“While it’s frustrating, it’s definitely worth it – the advice is of an exceptional quality. Once people have got through to us we have really been able to help them.
“Definitely get in contact with us and ask for help – let us see if we can maximise your income or help you manage your debt,” he said.
Call CAEB Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm on 0808 278 7914.
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