Nearly all Ipswich Citizens Advice food parcels, benefits and furlough help done remotely

Nicky Willshere, chief executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, has warned about the problems of more p

Ipswich Citizens Advice working in the office before the pandemic. - Credit: Lucy Taylor

During 2020/21, only 2% of people were seen face-to-face at Ipswich Citizens Advice with debt and universal credit the main enquiries.

While in 2019/20, 33% of the charity's meetings in the town were face to face and only 18% accessed were on the phone.

Now 51% of contacts are done by phone between 2020 and 2021. 

The amount of help Ipswich Citizens Advice has provided remains roughly the same with 18,501 helped in 2019/20 and 18,958 during the last year, an increase of around 2.4%. 

But the type of calls has changed with more people seeking advice, mainly, on wills, furlough, redundancy, and universal credit. 

Nicky Willshere, chief executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said: “[Our data] has given us early warnings of the problems ahead, and that alarm is now signalling the return of debt problems as people deal with the fallout of job losses, lower wages and less stability.

“Behind the numbers are the individuals who have been buffeted by a wave of problems triggered by the pandemic. Our frontline advisers will continue to be there to support them, but as a nation we must ensure no-one is left behind on the road to recovery.”

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One client's story illustrated the extra strain from Covid-19. The client - named only as Paul - sought Citizen Advice help as his hospitality job was first furloughed in March 2020 before the company went bust in October. 

Paul used his tiny savings to pay his rent and household bills until it ran out. He then went to Ipswich Citizens Advice as he had no idea what to do.

"I’ve never been out of work before," he said. “Citizens Advice applied for a food parcel for me, so at least I knew I didn’t need to worry about feeding myself.”

“The adviser helped me to make a claim for Universal Credit and this will cover my rent too! I had no idea that I would be able to get this support.

"I feel like a new person and really think that I can now start applying for jobs when things start to open up again."

You can call Citizens Advice freephone for general enquiries here 0808 278 7868 and for Universal Credit here 0800 1448 444.