CASE Central has always provided help and support to clients who struggled financially or emotionally due to problems with benefits or other personal crises. The Covid emergency however brought to us an increase in demand for Welfare Advice and emergency food/items.
Together with this sudden increased demand the lockdown also imposed restrictions on our normal activities. In order to protect our staff we had to suspended all face to face meetings and set up a system of ‘remote’ benefits advice on the telephone or online. We also devised new ways of providing people with food and items without having them accessing our premises, including organising food delivery. Restructuring our work almost overnight was a heavy task on its own right! In addition to these complications, our staffing numbers were reduced by the new ‘distancing’ rules, due to the limited capacity of our premises; managing meetings had to be restricted to meetings online; new trainees could not work that needed supervisions; and some senior and proactive volunteers had to ‘self isolate’ on and off for various periods.
Yet we were able to offer great help to the local community. We identified a range of new situations:
– Employed and self employed people waiting weeks for ‘furlough’ payments or tax rebates after their work was suspended due to the lockdown.
– Employed or self employed people who did not received sufficient furlough money or tax rebate and needed advice on what benefits they could claim, or how to claim.
– Workers from the EU with ‘pre-settled’ status who suddenly lost their jobs and were denied benefits.
– Sick or disabled people, whose new disability benefit claims were delayed due to the reduction of the workforce in Benefits Centres and the suspension of face to face medical assessments.
– People or entire families self isolating and unable to go out at all, and who needed food and essential items delivered to their door.
– People who avoided shops because of a health condition causing low immunity or who could not stand in long queues outside shops due to mobility problems.
Some people needed help because of strange new situations, specifically created by the lockdown. For example, we had a few disabled clients living on their own who were asked to undergo ‘telephone assessment’ with no one able to sit with them and support them emotionally, and panicked. And we had a client caught by the lockdown while they were on holiday and stuck abroad!
Of course, we also had clients with non-Covid related issues – as ‘normal’ – people with ongoing appeals, new claims, overpayment disputes, complaints, refugees needing support, etc. The virus did not stop people falling ill with other diseases, expecting or having babies, splitting up from partners, moving home… The new situation simply added to our ‘normal’ workload.
We are proud to say that by the time of updating this web page we have managed to provide a smooth, efficient, and coordinated service, helping hundreds of clients.
As part of our involvement in the local community, CASE Central also offered support to a grassroots group, the ‘Hollingdean Covid19 Mutual Aid’, which co-ordinates mutual aid in the neighbourhood through the disruption created by the epidemic. Mutual aid from local people has been needed by those who self isolate (to know more about the Mutual Aid group click here).
CASE Central has been a reference point for those who volunteer in the local Mutual Aid group for delivering and picking leaflets and other items that need to be taken around. We also helped with redistributing food and items. A few of us from CASE were part of the Mutual Aid group themselves. CASE Central has also been in close contact with the Hollingdean Community Centre, a major local ‘hub’, which made our services more efficient and long reaching.