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How shielding has left some vulnerable people struggling financially

PUBLISHED: 13:10 01 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:10 01 June 2020

Nelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager of Ipswich Citizens Advice, said there are vulnerable people who are not being protected by the furlough scheme. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Nelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager of Ipswich Citizens Advice, said there are vulnerable people who are not being protected by the furlough scheme. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Some vulnerable people living in Ipswich are losing huge amounts of income after being forced to shield themselves for their own safety, it has been warned.

Some people in Ipswich are struggling to survive after being forced out of work to shield for own safety (file picture). Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSome people in Ipswich are struggling to survive after being forced out of work to shield for own safety (file picture). Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Citizens Advice Ipswich has revealed some ‘shielders’ regret telling their employers they would be unable to work during the coronavirus outbreak – with a number of families are now relying on food parcels to get by.

Across the UK more than a quarter of vulnerable people shielding from Covid-19 have lost most of their income, according to new research from Citizens Advice.

The charity has spoken to one woman in Ipswich, who cannot be named, who is relying on bread and beans from her friend after being denied furlough as a food shop worker, and instead being put on statutory sick pay (SSP).

The woman has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which places in her in a high risk group and her husband is a carer so can’t return home while he works.

Nelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager of Ipswich Citizens Advice, has outlined some of the challenges faced Picture: LUCY TAYLORNelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager of Ipswich Citizens Advice, has outlined some of the challenges faced Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

She said: “It’s just a catch-22. I’m damned if I work and I’m damned if I don’t go to work.

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“I really wish I never gave my work the shielding letter because at least I wouldn’t be struggling to get by – but my husband rightly said working would put me at risk.

“Being on SSP means I take home over £200 a month less than if I was working.

“I’m struggling to pay my normal bills and buy things like food. I’ve had to sign up to get food parcels as I just don’t have enough money.”

According to a study of several thousand employment cases in the UK, 70% of those shielding or at higher risk from the virus have not been furloughed and 12% of people in the shielded group have worked outside of their homes to keep money coming in, despite potential risks to their health.

Nelleke van Helfteren, deputy manager of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said they have been helping families apply for benefits due to their reduced incomes.

“We do indeed have clients in the Ipswich area who are stuck between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “We have numerous cases where clients have asked their employer to furlough them but this has not happened.

“Clients have expressed regret for having disclosed a medical condition to their boss because they are now not getting work – zero hours contracts being a particular issue at this time.”

If you, or someone you know, is struggling to get by due to shielding or furlough call Citizens Advice Ipswich on 0300 330 1151.


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