Citizens Advice are working together in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to offer a solution to mitigate the COVID-19 Debt crisis. U Benefit is aimed at clients who face debt and financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19. Each Local Citizens Advice Office will screen clients when clients approach our service. This will then trigger the extra support offered through U Benefit ?Clients are also able to self refer ?here.
The Covid-19 pandemic crisis increased levels of unemployment in Hampshire and has triggered stress and anxiety, intensified due to rising levels of debt. From October 2019 to January 2020 the number of new claims for benefits in Hampshire was 197,724 and from February to May 2020 the number of new claims was 294,949 – an increase of 97,225 (49%).
This is a Hampshire-wide initiative with Citizens Advice Hampshire taking the lead, Portsmouth as the centre of excellence for debt advice in the county and Havant acting as the experts in financial capability via their “work out your money” scheme.
U Benefit offers:
- Screening by Local Citizens Advice across the region. Cases will be dealt with directly or if not referred to Portsmouth for in depth advice.
- Referrals from Job Centre Plus in Hampshire, Hampshire County Council crisis line and their Connect to Support online offer.
- Social media support via a dedicated Facebook page and closed group for peer to peer support
- National debt support
- Financial Literacy specialist support - via work out your money
- Specialist Debt casework support from Citizens Advice Portsmouth
The Work out your Money website provides a range of digital money management tools. To obtain more help you will need to complete a contact form giving your name, postcode and email address.
The site offers a one stop shop for clients referred by Local Citizens Advice or via direct access with:
- Money skills videos and helpful tips
- Top 5 spending Apps - recommended by Which? and/or the Financial Conduct Authority
- Careful referencing back to CitA website and Hampshire Local Citizens Advice for help with underlying issues
- Client contact form to obtain bespoke resources (providing project with client metrics) with several options:
- Budget spreadsheet - Digital Unite sponsored
- Digital spending diary
- Monthly newsletter - Quids In sponsored
- Help guide covering Universal Credit and Covid-19 - Quids In sponsored
- Request for individual support/appointment by phone or video conference
Note: Individual support under Option 5 will provide a money health check with 20 quick questions on spending habits and attitudes to money, which will help identify further support, possibly regarding benefit entitlement and budget planning. Ideally the client is given some actions and challenges and a 1-2 month follow up will assess distance travelled. There will also be a further option to refer to specialist services.