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The dedication of staff and volunteers at local charity Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale has allowed it to continue giving advice to those in need at this time.

The team rallied to ensure as many people as possible could be helped over the phone or through webchat. Two weeks into the lockdown, 70 volunteer advisers were operating the Advice Line service from their homes.

As part of Volunteers’ Week, which runs from June 1st to 7th, Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale wants to thank its 150 volunteers for their contribution not only during this exceptional time but throughout the year. Between them they contribute more than 1,000 hours to helping people each week.

In the last year it has helped over 11,000 people with problems such as debt, housing, benefit and employment issues.

Volunteer Virginia Parker, a specialist benefits adviser in the Abingdon office, said: “I get enormous pleasure in helping people in difficult circumstances to understand and get what they are entitled to.

“It can be very daunting to ask for help, so we do our best to put people at ease and help them through the process. There is nothing more rewarding than helping people to resolve their problems so they can move ahead with their lives.”

Jon Bright, chief officer at South and Vale, said: “Throughout the year our wonderful volunteers contribute their time and energy to make a huge difference to people’s lives and help keep our vital service running. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Want to volunteer?

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale, please visit their website

Citizens Advice debt help

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Citizens Advice

The arrival of coronavirus in the UK and the threat of infection has emptied streets, confined us in our houses, closed shops and offices and filled hospitals with thousands of patients.

The arrival of coronavirus in the UK and the threat of infection has emptied streets, confined us in our houses, closed shops and offices and filled hospitals with thousands of patients.

Financial issues have widened the scale of the problem: many of those fortunate enough to remain healthy have suffered a loss of income so drastic that even the paying of essential household bills has become questionable.

However, there are definite steps you can take to tackle these bills. Many banks and utility companies, being keenly aware of people’s predicaments, have already reached out to their customers with offers of help. So don’t ignore your bills but get in touch with the companies to whom you owe money, or expect to owe money. They might be able to help by redistributing your debts, letting you pay in smaller amounts, over a longer time period, or on a deferred basis.

If you are repaying a mortgage, contact your provider. The government has mooted the idea of a three-month mortgage payment holiday and you might be eligible for it.

If you pay rent, contact your landlord to discuss the situation. If you are at risk of being evicted, remember that since March 26th, 2020, the law on evictions has temporarily changed and, for many types of tenancy, eviction notices have to last a minimum of three months.

You might be able to claim benefits, or enhanced benefits if you already receive them. The Citizens Advice website has details:

As for Council Tax, if your income has dropped or you are on benefits, you might qualify for reductions. Contact your local district council, using the details on your latest bill.

Get in touch with your gas or electricity supplier, as well as telephone/broadband company. Their help line phone numbers should be on your latest bill. They can tell you whether a special payment plan can be set up.

If you owe income tax, HMRC has a free help line you can call: 0800 015 9559 (Mon-Fri 8am to 4pm).

For further information, contact Citizens Advice helpline on 0300 330 9042

Citizens Advice S&V

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Citizens Advice

Photo: Chair of trustees Jane Richardson and manager Liz Johnson celebrate 80 years of Citizens Advice 

Volunteers and staff from Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale celebrated 80 years of service to the local community at a ceremony recently.

Citizens Advice was founded on 4th September 1939, the day after the Second World War was declared, to help people deal with the impact of war.

Volunteers gave advice on evacuation, ration books, new housing for those whose homes had been bombed, and even provided recipes using the limited ingredients available on rationing.

Eighty years on, the issues may have changed, but the core values of Citizens Advice remain the same: to provide free, confidential and impartial advice to everyone everywhere.

Last year, Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale, an independent charity, helped 11,999 people resolve 20,200 problems including debt, housing, Universal Credit, benefits, family problems and consumer issues. For many people this service is a lifeline.

Jon Bright, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale, said: “This service is only possible thanks to the dedication and commitment of our 160 highly trained volunteers who give up their time to help people in our community find a solution to their problems.”

The number of people in need of help and advice has risen by 30 per cent over the last three years and local offices are in greater need of volunteers to help keep the service running with posts including advisers, receptionists, administrators, IT support and fundraisers.

Find out more

If you are interested, contact Citizens Advice Oxfordshire South and Vale for more information on 01235 550553 or email [email protected]