Today’s blog comes from Caroline Matthews, Development Manager at St Pauls Advice Centre.
It’s been over two months since Bristol’s advice agencies closed their doors and re-organised themselves so that they can continue to offer free advice to the people of Bristol over the phone and by email and text messaging. At St Pauls Advice Centre the team continues to give free, expert and confidential advice to the residents of St Paul’s and East Bristol, just as it has for five decades. Many clients, especially those who are older, vulnerable or speak languages other than English, really value a trusted and professional presence in the heart of the community because advice agencies have a ‘Friendly, Local and Here to help’ approach to everyone that calls.
Between them, Bristol’s advice agencies help people with debt, housing and homelessness, employment, benefits (including appeals), discrimination, financial management, energy bills, EUSS, immigration and asylum issues. Covid-19 has had a major impact across all of these areas; for some people their problems may be getting more complex, while others may need advice for the first time in their lives.
Bristol should be proud of its effective network of advice agencies, which includes experts in discrimination, benefit appeals and more. Some are community based and others work Bristol-wide. These services work closely together in ‘normal’ times and at the start of the pandemic quickly joined forces to get information about the help available to Bristol’s people as widely as possible – gathering their networks together and reaching out to all the new community groups that have risen up.
All Bristolians should know they’re not on their own; they can get free, expert and impartial advice. It’s vital people get in touch sooner rather than later – before problems get worse. Advice agencies are working closely with Bristol City Council and the We Are Bristol support line can direct callers to the help available from advice agencies so people can get good, fast and appropriate help. Contact details are as follows:
- Phone: 0800 694 0184 (8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday, 10am to 2pm Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays), translation service available
- Web form: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/crime-emergencies/covid-19-general-enquiries-form
You can find out more details about Bristol’s advice services and how to contact them directly here.
No one yet knows what the new normal will be, but Bristol’s advice services are working hard to ensure that anyone who needs it will continue to receive help to manage the challenges they face.