IN a year that has presented each and every member of society with a different blend of challenges and worries, Citizen’s Advice Scotland (CAS) has been on hand to help as they adapted their own operation to meet the demands of the pandemic.
Its Annan office opened up again to the public in July, however staff and volunteers had been working remotely all the way throughout providing support to a growing number of individuals facing financial, legal and employment issues.
Discussing what individuals sought advice on during lockdown, CAS Annan’s manager Brenda Waugh said: “People were worrying about different things – their jobs, where their money was going to come from, if they were on furlough, if they were shielding, or on statutory sick pay.
“If they were shielding, some were only on statutory sick pay so they were dropping from £300 a week to £90 a week and that’s a big drop. Lots of people were worrying at that time but gradually things have settled down a wee bit, as things change their problems change.
“For people that were continuing to work it was the isolation, they were struggling because in general when people go to work they’re working with colleagues and they’re having the chats at lunchtime and tea breaks, but they didn’t have that anymore.”
Staff at CAS Annan took advantage of the office being temporarily closed over the lockdown for a deep clean and redecoration.
Brenda said doing so was “great because everything had been sanitised anyway because of the redecorating.”
She added: “We opened under strict rules, it was appointment only at first but we’ve drifted into drop-ins as well. If someone comes in we triage them, they can be seen right away if need be, or an appointment can be made if it’s not urgent.
“We’ve got a cleaning regime – I joke when I say it’s like Asda toilets, every time we have to tick a box, it has to be done. The priority is just keeping everybody safe.
“They come to the door, wear a mask unless they have a reason not to, we’ve got a sanitising station at the door, and masks are available if people don’t have one of their own.”
Brenda also highlighted how the events of this year have changed the delivery of services provided by CAS, saying that staff and volunteers are “dealing with things much more efficiently.”
“We are doing a lot more through social media, telephone and email and our website and we just have to change. We always had phone service but it’s very different now and I think people are using that more and we can probably deal with more people,” she explained.
And one of the significant positives to come from the pandemic has been improving communication and services with people living in more further afield areas of Annandale and Eskdale covered by the office, such as Langholm, Moffat and Lockerbie.
* The CAS Annan office on 19A Bank Street is open weekdays from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm to 4 pm. Alternatively, telephone enquiries can be made by calling 0300 303 4321.