A Citizens Advice South Warwickshire outreach service supporting people in crisis situations in Stratford will be able to continue its vital work, thanks to a joint cash boost of around £10,000 from Warwickshire County Council, and Stratford District Council.
‘Reach Out and Help’ takes Citizens Advice to people who would otherwise find it difficult to access help to tackle their problems. 75% of people helped by the service have a disability, or long term health condition and many have multiple complex needs often including a shortage of income, food or essential goods such as bedding, cookers, or heating. The service has adapted its model of delivery to reflect the current Covid-19 pandemic and although is currently not visiting people in their homes, the team is continuing to help people in crisis remotely.
The project has been running successfully for five years, assisting more than 30 people from Stratford District each month. However, due to the pandemic, a bid for external funding to continue the project has been put on hold for at least six months. The funding from the County and District Councils will contribute towards the shortfall.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, the Reach Out and Help team has assisted more than double the number of people compared to last year needing help with employment issues, such as accessing Employment Support Allowance.
While the number of people needing help with accessing Universal Credit has increased by 80% during the pandemic. The crisis has also seen a marked increase in the number of people needing hardship grants for items such as clothing, white goods and emergency food parcels.
Councillor Heather Timms, portfolio holder for Environment, Heritage and Culture, said:
“As a local charity, the joint funding of over £5,000 each from Warwickshire County Council and Stratford District Council, enables this excellent project to continue. We are delighted to be able to support this vital work assisting the most vulnerable in our community, particularly at this time of great difficulty for so many people.”
Yvonne Hunter, Chair of Citizens Advice South Warwickshire said:
“As a local charity, we are incredibly grateful to both Stratford District Council and Warwickshire County Council who have kindly made a grant to continue our much needed crisis support project, at this very difficult time. Our advisers have responded to a 104% increase in employment issues and 80% increase in Universal Credit issues, during lockdown, compared to the same period last year. People are really struggling in this District and need our expert advice, advocacy and support.”
Councillor Jo Barker, Portfolio Holder for People from Stratford-on-Avon District Council said:
“The District Council has supported Citizens Advice South Warwickshire (CASW) for many years. This project and CASW are key to our local efforts to help residents recover from the wider impacts of the Coronavirus and are glad this funding support will secure the continuation of the valued Reach Out and Help work.”
Trained advisers work alongside people, for as long as it takes, to tackle all the issues they face drawing in help from other organisations where needed.
The services offered by Reach Out and Help workers include help to:
- Manage household budgets
- Deal with debts
- Cut the cost of gas, electricity and water bills
- Claim benefits and tax credits
- Improve job prospects
- Access volunteering and training opportunities
- Navigate health and social and home care services
For more information about ‘Reach out and help’ visit: https://www.casouthwarwickshire.org.uk/about/projects/reach-out-and-help/