Hundreds of people in Richmondshire have sought help from Citizens Advice volunteers due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Citizens Advice Mid North Yorkshire, which has offices in Richmond and Northallerton, says it has helped 947 people in the past four weeks, 42 per cent of who have a disability or long-term health condition.
The charity has seen a 209 per cent increase in calls for emergency assistance during the coronavirus pandemic and has helped a record number of people access foodbanks and £258,000 in benefits and tax credits in just one month.
The charity managed to get coal and blankets delivered to a family that were self-isolating and had no heating on Good Friday in Wensleydale.
The organisation also helped to sort out a complicated universal credit claim for a family of five with three children who had run out of food and were self-isolating.
The charity organised a food parcel drop-off for them, a £150 grant for shopping and help with their energy costs.
The charities’ Communications lead Adam Matthews said they had seen a “huge increase in the number of people contacting them, many after losing jobs or who were on zero-hours contracts”.
The organisation has moved its systems over to the phone and online, with staff, the vast majority of them volunteers, working from home because of concerns over staffing face to face interviews with people seeking help during the lockdown.
Their rural advice bus, which helped deliver advice and help to remote areas of North Yorkshire, has also been suspended during the covid-19 crisis.
The bus has been offered to local mutual aid groups in North Yorkshire to help deliver essential supplies to people who are shielded at home or are in self-isolation.
The charity has also set up a Specialist COVID19 Polish Advice Service where Polish nationals can email one of their volunteers at firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
Between March 15 and April 14 this year, the service received 495 calls to its advice line compared to 160 in the same period in 2019. Overall, in that same time they helped 947 people.
The main issues of concern dealt with by advisers were Universal Credit 263; employment 272; housing 92, debt 96 and other benefits 323.
Chief executive officer Carol Shreeve said: “These are unprecedented and challenging times for our clients, staff and volunteers. The decision to suspend face-to-face services for the foreseeable future to support the Government’s latest guidelines, was a very difficult one. Citizens Advice was born out of the crisis at the end of the Second World War and we are now again supporting people to get through difficult times.
“I am extremely proud of our staff and volunteers who have swiftly adapted to these new working conditions and have gone above and beyond in, giving extra time to help our clients who are now more in need of us than ever before.
“Our services are much busier than normal but please bear with us, we will get to you as soon as we possibly can. We are working hard with our partners, local charities and local authorities to make sure people’s needs are met as soon as possible.”
If you need to contact Citizens Advice in the Richmondshire area you can call the specialist adviceline on 0300-3309036.