There has been a substantial increase in demand for advice locally. We had to close our advice centres for face-to-face advice in mid-March but we have equipped over 90 advisers and staff to operate our Adviceline service from home. They have access to the latest information and all the necessary security and confidentiality protocols have been put in place. We are very grateful to them for adapting to these new arrangements so quickly.
The problems people are facing
Across the country, there has been a record-breaking demand for our online service with over 2 million visits to our website last week. Almost a quarter of those page views were on four issues related to Coronavirus:
There has been an increase in coronavirus-related scams across Oxfordshire. These range from unknown individuals asking to access homes to offer temperature checks to face masks and sanitisers being paid for but never delivered. The elderly and most vulnerable are at particular risk of being targeted, but everyone needs to be cautious of cold calls, emails and messages that are sent out of blue.
If in doubt, call our Scams Action helpline on 0808 250 5050 or check on our website for further advice.
Help to claim Universal Credit
Last year we helped 600 people in Oxfordshire South and Vale to apply for Universal Credit through our Help to Claim service. Since March, this has been the single biggest issue clients have phoned about, closely followed by employment concerns. We are pleased to say that we will continue to provide this support through to March 2021.
How we are helping
Our client was unable to work due to the need to self-isolate because of a heart condition. He had never been in debt before but was now very concerned about Council Tax arrears. We provided full debt advice over the phone and by email, including two budget sheets: one for the period of self-isolation and the other for his normal working situation. We also provided advice on maximising his income and minimising his expenditure. We wrote to the Council on his behalf asking for discretionary write-off of the Council Tax arrears and suggested he applied for Council Tax reduction during the period of self-isolation. The client was very grateful for the help we provided.
This is one of many cases we are supporting at the moment. Self isolation can exacerbate people's anxieties and stress about their financial situation.