Supporting our clients during COVID-19 at Citizens Advice Wokingham
Roz Betteridge is a Volunteer Assessor at Citizens Advice Wokingham, writing today to highlight the work our team do to support those in need.
My name is Roz and I’ve been volunteering with Citizens Advice for 18 months. Most of my day is spent following up with clients who have already spoken with our AdviceLine but need a call back for a more detailed assessment.
I help on Adviceline when needed and I am also training to be a
specialist employment adviser with the Employment Advice team where, amongst other things, I can put to good use my many years of payroll experience.
One of the sad realities of Covid is expected to be a lot of employers having to cut or alter jobs to survive. It is important that this is done fairly, properly and with understanding, and we are seeing a significant increase in calls relating to redundancy or restructuring.
Employment is a relationship between employer and employee and a bad breakup can affect our self-esteem and mental health as well as our wallets. Citizens Advice can help employees understand their rights and ideally to negotiate better outcomes.
Prior to lockdown I met most clients in person, and at first it was a bit daunting only being able to talk on the telephone on my own at home. However it soon turned out that the setup for this was amazing, with colleagues available on ‘Google Meet’ for assistance, WhatsApp groups, weekly meetings and training sessions as things changed.
For the first few months of lockdown the phones were very busy and the nature of the calls very different, concerns about getting food, medication, furlough etc. The local people of Wokingham by volunteering their time to deliver food and prescriptions gave us plenty of options to help people making our job a lot easier. It was great to be able to speak to so many people and offer assistance and reassurance in very uncertain times.
As the ‘One Front Door’ message became known, with the message to ‘ask us anything’, we have had some really interesting and unusual challenges.
After an initial surge at the start of Lockdown, the phones have continued to be busy but I feel the nature of the calls has changed. Many of us are specialising in areas such as employment, benefits, housing and debt to help with the demand.
I joined Citizen’s Advice as I wanted to support an organisation that gave people somewhere to turn to for help and support. I enjoy speaking with the Clients, the mental challenge of understanding problems and helping clients formulate solutions. We may be heading for more restrictions and a
second wave. At present we are still working from home but that makes it easier to do an additional couple of hours on the phones if needed than if we were in the office. We are of course looking forward to meeting our Clients face to face when safe.
If you have any questions about anything, give us a call. You are not just accessing the person on the phone but all the knowledge and support
from all at Citizens Advice and other organisations behind the scenes.
For support from Citizens Advice Wokingham please visit www.citizensadvicewokingham.org.uk or for outside of the area visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk