Beware bogus information during Covid-19 crisis, says Citizens Advice East Devon

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 April 2020

Tim Bridger, chief executive of Citizens Advice East Devon. Picture: Citizens Advice

Tim Bridger, chief executive of Citizens Advice East Devon. Picture: Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice

‘Bogus and incorrect information’ on dealing with the coronavirus outbreak is rife on social networks and messaging apps, according to Citizens Advice East Devon.

The charity is highlighting the importance of getting clear and accurate guidance on the support available, and the schemes in place such as furloughing.

Citizens Advice East Devon (CAED) has had to close its offices in Exmouth, Honiton, Sidmouth, Seaton and Axminster during the Covid-19 lockdown, but is still offering telephone and online services from trained volunteers working from home.

Chief executive Tim Bridger said: “With so many people facing huge changes to their daily lives, the need for clarity and accuracy is vital.

“Schemes are being put in place to support people weather this storm, but understanding what schemes you might be eligible for, help you understand what you should or shouldn’t apply for, or explain the implications of the new schemes for you and your family, is not straightforward.

“Being able to talk things over with a trained advisor and understand what needs to be done and how it can be done is a huge boost.”

The two local numbers for CAED are 01395 265070 and 01404 42227. Callers will be asked to leave their contact details, and an advisor will ring back as soon as possible. The local email address is enquiries@citizensadviceeastdevon.org.

The charity is setting up a fast-track referral process for people who are very isolated or vulnerable and is keen to work with local support groups to help these residents.

Many of the enquiries Citizens Advice are receiving locally relate to accessing food supplies, benefit applications, debt advice, information on job security, and finding a way through the maze of information and help available from government and local organisations.

Another issue is furloughing, particularly since the official guidance was revised just before the scheme went live.

Mr Bridger said: “To be entitled to the payments you must have been employed on March 19, 2020 and be paid through the Pay as You Earn Scheme.”

The revised rules state that HMRC will only recognise furlough as valid if the employer and employee have agreed in writing, which may be in an electronic form such as an email, that the employee will cease all work in relation to their employment. Verbal notification is not enough.

On CAED’s move to remote working, volunteer Ruth Wilson said it is going well.

She said: “Recent IT upgrades and changes in procedures have meant that within days we were able to move relatively smoothly to advisors working from home and still having access to the resources they need.

“A virtual East Devon Team has emerged from the various offices and outreaches in Exmouth, Honiton, Sidmouth, Seaton and Axminster.

“It’s been a huge learning curve for many of us, but everyone has pulled together to help each other and make things work and there is great satisfaction in being able to continue to help our clients.”

For more coronavirus information visit the national Citizens Advice website

The national telephone number for advice is 03444 111 444.


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