Further to our statement that we will be moving from our Northwich and Ellesmere Port offices to Community Access Points in order to maintain social distancing for the safety of our clients, volunteers and staff, we want to explain how this will affect our service.
Our new Chief Executive, Jason Bishop says: “The covid pandemic has changed the way clients access Citizens Advice support and we have seen a large increase in telephone and digital. As a result we have introduced a free telephone service and email advice to make it easier for clients to contact us.
As a district with a large rural area, we see the provision of a telephone service as being an essential part of increasing accessibility to advice. However, we also recognise the difficulties that some clients have in accessing our service, and the fact that some clients and issues just need to be seen face-to-face.”
He adds: “Dedicated access points will be safe and confidential places where people can use our services in a variety of ways. This could be as simple as using a telephone at the venue to call our free adviceline, or it could be by having a pre-arranged face-to-face appointment with one of our staff or volunteers.
Access points can enable people to have a video appointment, and they will often be places that our clients already go to for other support (such as foodbanks or community centres, or schools). Our ambition is to have an access point in every council ward in Cheshire West & Chester.”
You can find more detail about our current access point venues on our website.
We will retain a presence in Wyvern House in Winsford as our head office and we’ll be keeping the interview room space we have there. We will also remain at the Bluecoat in Chester. With agreement from the Council, we will be able to offer a three day per week limited drop-in assessment service from these locations when it is safe to do so.
Exactly how we deliver our services from the access points depends on a number of things. Firstly, the government’s roadmap out of Covid. At present, the advice is that everyone should work from home if they can, and this is not due to change until 21st June.
At all times, we will take the safety of our staff, volunteers and clients into account, and carry out appropriate risk assessments before restarting in-person services.
Throughout the pandemic and even once we are able to see clients face-to-face again, we can be contacted via our free Adviceline number on 0808 2787 806 or our email advice service.