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Spalding area volunteers have seen a big jump in number of people in South Holland seeking help

The team at Citizens Advice have seen the number of people in South Holland seeking help jump by a third – with the biggest leap being questions about Universal Credit.

Figures recorded in the nine months since the first lockdown started went up to 3,155 from 2,406 in the comparable period of the previous year.

This is despite the organisation having to close its offices and outreaches, and move to online and telephone service.

A volunteer prepares food hampers at Crowland Community Larder.Photo supplied. (43673458)
A volunteer prepares food hampers at Crowland Community Larder.Photo supplied. (43673458)

By far, they say, the biggest leap related to questions about Universal Credit.

Enquiries doubled, and within that jump, there was a 72% increase in questions about making an initial claim. Separately, questions about employment also jumped by 41%, from 844 to 1,192, which they add underlines ‘the massive effect the pandemic is having on people’s working lives’.

Housing, consumer matters, relationships, health and immigration, in addition to concerns of debt and benefits, were also among the concerns they helped with.

And the average age of people seeking advice has reduced overall compared with the previous year, with a drop off in enquiries from older people, and an increase in those of working age, tying in with the leap in concerns about Universal Credit and employment issues.

Chief officer for Citizens Advice South Lincolnshire, Simon Richards, said: “We support people every day whose lives have been turned upside down by this pandemic.

“Given that we were unable to continue face to face service past March 23, it was particularly welcome to see that we were able to increase the number of clients helped.

“It is clear that our services are needed as much as ever right now, and will continue to be needed even more in the future.”

Citizens Advice South Lincolnshire is also supporting the national campaign to urge the Government not to drop the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift, and warns that local families could be pushed into further hardship if the uplift ends as planned in April.

Figures from South Holland District Council showed the number of people claiming Universal Credit went up to 7,513 as of November 2020, compared to 3,128 from the same period in 2019.

And as of December 2020, the Department of Work and Pensions say the number of people claiming Universal Credit in South Holland was 7,776.

A spokesman said: “With the current pandemic, unfortunately some people have lost their jobs, others have been placed on the furlough scheme and subsequently seen a decrease in their income, which has led to more people requiring support and claiming Universal Credit.

“There are also self-employed people, or those working part time, that also may receive Universal Credit as a top up to their income.”

Foodbanks in the area are continuing to support people in need, having seen an increase in calls for help as a result of the pandemic.

Laura Beeken, of the Crowland Community Larder, said: “In the first three weeks since the March lockdown we handed out six months of parcels. Now we are doing a fortnightly service where people can pick up items.

“They can come to us as long as they need.

“People have come to us saying they have managed to get a job and then there’s another lockdown and they have lost their job.”

  • Citizens Advice South Lincolnshire can be contacted on the freephone adviceline which is open Monday to Friday 9am-4pm on 0808 2787996.

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