Citizens Advice Cornwall has received a major £19k boost towards its expansion to cope with increased demand for help across the county.
The money, from the Cornwall Community Foundation (CCF), will be used for new IT equipment, including two main servers and 70 additional computer screens to allow advisers to work from home during the coronavirus lockdown.
CA Cornwall Chief Executive, Gill Pipkin, said:
“We are very grateful for this generous grant from CCF. We are expecting a big increase in demand for help as the full effects of the lockdown begin to bite and when Government support, such bans on tenant repossessions and help for businesses and self-employed people comes to an end.
“We are already seeing more members of the public coming to us with debt, benefits, housing, employment and relationship breakdown issues so this new equipment will be vital in helping us help people overcome their problems.”
Since last year’s lockdown in March to November 2020, the charity helped 3,800 people across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly with 17,400 issues, including 3,900 about debt, 3,700 about benefits and 2,700 about Universal Credit. The new equipment will increase capacity to handle calls by around 30%.
Gill added: “The new servers will allow our advisers to carry out more video appointments and digital phone sessions from home and the additional screens will allow them to see clients face-to-face while accessing the information they need on a second monitor.”
CA Cornwall is developing a network of Citizens Advice Help Points across the county, which will allow people to book online sessions with advisers and look up the information they need if they don’t have a home computer. Staff at the public venues – which include community centres, libraries and foodbanks – will help people operate the computers if needed.
The network now includes venues in Torpoint, Launceston, Bude, Stenalees, St Ives, Pendeen and St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly and will become fully operational as lockdown restrictions ease.