A group of Somerset charities which provide free, confidential, and impartial advice on everything from money and employment to housing and relationships have been awarded a grant of £400,000 by Somerset County Council.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Citizens Advice services in Somerset have stepped up the services offered through their freephone Adviceline, with face-to-face appointments and drop-ins scaled back.
The charities are expecting demand for services to rise exponentially over the next 12 months, particularly as the furlough scheme ends and eviction proceedings recommence.
A budget amendment was proposed by Councillor Mandy Chilcott, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council, at Full Council on Wednesday and approved unanimously by councillors across all parties.
The £400k grant will be used to develop and sustain a County-wide service, to help close the gap between demand and provision, to extend opening hours, and to increase capacity for the inevitable increase in demand.
Cllr Chilcott said: “Throughout this pandemic we have worked closely with our partners across the voluntary and community sector to ensure everyone in Somerset has the support they need. Citizens Advice do a fantastic job and this grant will enable them to expand provision and provide essential support for our residents.”
Amy Jones, CEO of Citizens Advice Sedgemoor, said: “This is such an exciting development for Citizens Advice services in Somerset, at a time when we have already seen an increase in demand.
“The recognition of the value of our work is a reflection of the efforts that our teams have put in to keep helping people during these unprecedented times. This additional funding means that we can deliver so much more to our clients and communities when we are needed the most.”
For more information about Citizens Advice services in Somerset and the services they provide, please visit https://citizensadvicesomerset.org.uk/. They offer advice by email or you can call Adviceline on 0808 27 87842 between 10am and 4pm from Monday to Friday.
The Somerset Coronavirus Helpline remains open for anyone in Somerset who needs support with access to food or medicines, or emotional and financial support. The number is 0300 790 6275 and lines are open seven days a week, 8am to 6pm.