Responding to the Covid challenge
Moving from a service based on meeting clients face-to-face has been a huge challenge for Citizens Advice Westminster.
We started working from home on the 24th March, with a few of us sorting out the routing of adviceline to mobiles, and equipment for staff on the 23rd.
As one staff member put it: “When my colleague arrived at my front door with my laptop, I knew this was serious.”
Volunteers in our research and campaigns team and external communications were also able to continue to work to ensure that we maintained our social media/twitter presence. We were able to access other communications channels such as the local press, the Westminster City Council Covid newsletter, and other relevant charity websites to publicise our new way of operating so that partners, stakeholders and clients knew how to contact us via email and telephone.
Since that time, and without pause, our teams have provided virtual and phone appointments for our clients and maintained our telephone Adviceline. Out of a total of 7,989 client contacts only 19 were conducted in person, the remainder by phone or on-line
Clients have expressed almost unanimous support for the fact that we are available at the end of the phone and that our advisers are ringing them promptly at the arranged appointment time. Unable to send real flowers a grateful and digitally creative client sent a virtual bouquet.
Unable to send real flowers, a grateful and digitally creative client sent a virtual bouquet
Another client commented: ”I just wanted to say a huge thank you to Citizens Advice Westminster for sending me all the food provisions that I had given to me today. I am a very proud gentleman, however over the last 6 months I have to say I found myself at rock bottom. To then be introduced to yourself – for sure I have to give thanks and praise as you have taken the time in helping me get back on track. I thank you sincerely.“
We received over 6,000 enquiries between April and June. Universal credit was the top issue with 1,400 enquiries, as many people were facing the need to claim benefit for the first time. Housing had 1,000 enquiries and almost 500 employment issues were raised, with self-employment, redundancy, dismissal, furlough scheme and employment tribunals most common.
See the staggering percentage increases in enquiries across the top Covid related issues.