2,057 people received help with an issue related to the coronavirus pandemic – whether that was needing a prescription collecting, help accessing food or issues at home — our team of volunteers answered all of their queries, and continue to do so.
Right through the lockdown, with our ‘One Front Door’, we have ensured that no-one feels left behind, with one phone number to call for any problem — including our core advice services on benefits, debt, housing, employment law and much more.
This work has only been successful thanks to two key groups:
- Our team — volunteers, staff and trustees. 12 weeks ago we could have taken caution and waited to ride this out — yet we stepped up, at a time that our communities needed us more than ever, to play a key role — assessing and finding the right routes of support for anyone who needs help. Over 80 volunteers and 10 staff were mobilised from home within five working days, with NO pause to our advice services for people who were getting help at the time. I am grateful, and proud, of every single one of them.
- Wokingham Borough — the Borough Council, the charity sector, parish and town councils, churches together, community groups, the Wokingham Paper and much more. Together, we had our roles to play — co-ordinated by the local authority, the voluntary sector action group delivered key support. Some charities took on the role of delivering prescriptions, others ran a food hub, and one took to the phones providing telephone buddies to tackle loneliness. The partnership working has been, quite frankly, incredible. It has been a pleasure to work so closely with this group of people for the last 12 weeks.
One Front Door
Our role in the crisis is to be the access point, the route in to support across the Borough. Our job has not to be everything and anything — but to provide support to our communities, through trained volunteers, to assess people’s needs. Through our experience and processes, we can then identify the right route(s) of support.
We have helped people with a wide variety of issues, ranging from helping an elderly resident fix their smoke alarm to helping someone with an emergency Discretionary Housing Payment application and moving costs for someone who was being moved from their temporary accommodation.
In both April and May, 95–97% of calls were answered and the average wait time was 2 seconds to speak to one of our team!
98% of clients who provided feedback said that they would recommend us to someone else.
Advice and Support
51% of the clients we have helped in the last 12 weeks have a disability or long-term health condition, compared to 33% in the whole of 2019.
We have helped fill in emergency individual grant applications to local funders such as Wokingham United Charities for things such as a bed for someone who is terminally ill and a microwave for someone who was unable to heat up the food they received from the emergency hub.
The support our communities have received have resulted in income gains worth at least £351,000 and support to write-off debts of £86,594.
We have also launched regular livestreams, talking with other charity leaders and funders to charities — to talk about our roles across Wokingham Borough, and how we support people in our respective organisations. You can find out more information here.
Our first social media livestreams have been with Wokingham United Charities and CLASP — a charity supporting people with learning disabilities. Our colleagues have also shared what it’s like to volunteer, and a session on what is Citizens Advice.
We have also chaired, for the last 13 weeks, weekly peer-support calls, attended by around 60 chief executives and leaders across the Citizens Advice network in England and Wales. This is a great opportunity to share problems and help each other find solutions in such a testing time for us all.
Our team have shown resilience, determination and a true passion to support people — to play our role. That can be difficult, testing and sometimes exhausting. That is why I am so proud of everything that they have achieved. Along with all the other brilliant efforts in our communities, across every sector — in an amazing show of strength and unity.
We help people find a way forward with their problems, we empower, and we also provide opportunities. Support your local charities — and champion their work!
For more information on Citizens Advice Wokingham visit www.citizensadvicewokingham.org.uk