Citizens Advice unlocks £147m for people during pandemic

Citizens Advice unlocks £147m for people during pandemic

The Citizens Advice network unlocked almost £147 million for people during the pandemic, new statistics have revealed.

Despite the huge challenges presented by lockdown, with face to face advice restricted for large periods of the 2020/21 year, the network unlocked £146.9m for people through things like social security payments, employment entitlements and cheaper bills.

In a year like no other, the network helped over 171,000 people in Scotland.

During lockdown the Citizens Advice network in Scotland quickly transitioned to remote working, with 900 laptops delivered across the country allowing advisers to work from home to ensure people still got the advice they needed.

The network also took steps to increase access to advice, launching Scotland’s Citizens Advice Helpline weeks after the first lockdown as an emergency response to the pandemic, with CABs from across Scotland coming together to provide the service.

Citizens Advice Scotland also developed and launched, an online resource which allows people to round up their options to save on bills and increase their incomes. The Advice for Scotland website had more than 5.4 million views during the pandemic.

Moving forward, the network is focused on helping people through the post pandemic recovery, as various support schemes like furlough begin to wind down, energy bills rise, and Universal Credit faces a £20 per week cut.

Commenting on the results, Derek Mitchell, CAS chief executive, said: “In a year like no other, when we had to stay apart in our homes the Citizens Advice network came together to ensure people got vital help.

“To unlock £147m for people in the last year is a simply staggering result. This is money going into the pockets of people in communities across the country.

“Lockdowns and social distancing restrictions posed a real challenge to CABs during the pandemic, but they didn’t miss a beat in transitioning to remote working.”

He added: “It’s important to remember that so much of the work CABs do requires face to face advice, whether that is because of the complex nature of the issue, the vulnerability of the client, or the simple reassurance people get from a friendly face.

“With the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind us, we’re focused on the economic fallout and what that will mean for people. The comings months look to be incredibly challenging, with the prospect of cuts to Universal Credit, the end of the furlough scheme, and higher energy bills creating a perfect storm of falling incomes and rising costs.

“Through this uncertainty, the CAB network will be there to help people, as we have for 80 years.”

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