Wiltshire Citizens Advice which has offices in Devizes, Chippenham, Trowbridge and Salisbury was awarded £21,900 to help fund additional staff to increase their capacity to support a new wave of people facing employment and financial struggles because of the pandemic.

Chief Executive Suzanne Wigmore said: “Each year we provide advice to 18,000 people but since March this has totally changed - we have already seen a 600 per cent increase in the number of people we’ve advised about redundancy. Almost overnight around 100,000 people in the county have found their employment or financial situation impacted by Coronavirus. There were 65,000 people being supported by the government furlough scheme, over 18,000 through the self-employment grants and there have been 12,000 new claims for Universal Credit. As these initiatives come to an end we know that a significant number will be facing redundancy or reduced hours and therefore a reduced salary and will be approaching us for support.

“We are going to be seeing a new client group and a lot of them are in the ‘we never thought it would happen to us’ group. It will include people who have been working in hospitality, in shops or on zero-hours contracts, and also those who have been on a high income but also have high outgoings to match it. People who have become used to a regular income will find the shock of losing it difficult to cope with particularly if they have fixed costs such as mortgages, car loans, and school and university fees. When you are looking at managing debt and trying to work out what can be reduced it can be overwhelming. This group also don’t have any experience of Universal Credit or services such as the Jobcentre.

“Being able to provide advice as early as possible is essential as it prevents things from spiralling out of control. You only need to miss one or two mortgage payments or borrow one payday loan, which then gets rolled over, and things get out of hand. Our Coronavirus Response Fund grant is going to make a huge difference as it will allow us to provide early intervention and hopefully enable people to stay in their home and not get into debt.”

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