Sharp rise in demand for support in Wakefield during lockdown

Demand for Wakefield’s Citizen Advice services trebled in the days after lockdown across the UK started.

By David Spereall
Thursday, 9th April 2020, 11:33 am
Updated Thursday, 9th April 2020, 11:34 am

The charity’s local chief said Universal Credit had accounted for more than half of all cases it had handled since the pandemic took hold.

Citizen’s Advice is no longer doing face-to-face meetings with clients, having closed its city centre office in Wakefield, but remains available over the phone, webchat and email.

Demand for its services, while having fallen since a huge spike last month, remains around 10 per cent higher than normal, CEO Simon Topham said.

Demand for Wakefields Citizen Advice services trebled in the days after lockdown across the UK started.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Topham said many people in the area are facing “terrible hardship”, with so much of the local workforce having been furloughed or laid off.

He said: “In the first two or three days after lockdown, demand trebled.

“At the moment, demand is still different and higher than normal, but it’s more stable.

“In the past two weeks, we’ve dealt with 1,344 issues, and out of those 688 were concerning Universal Credit.

Mr Topham said Citizen’s Advice were also taking hundreds of questions from people about how they’d been treated by their employers and about loans.

He also said the age profile of those it was helping had become significantly younger overnight.

“Normally, the majority of the people we help are aged over 55, but in the last few weeks that’s completely flipped,” he added.

“What that indicates I think is that it’s working age people who need help and clarity over benefits.

“It’s difficult times for a lot of people. It must be really hard if, for example you’re on a zero hours contract, and now suddenly there’s no income at all.”

For help on Universal Credit, call 0800 1448444, for debt, benefits housing and employment, call 03444 111444. Also, you can webchat at www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

Local Democracy Reporting Services