Leading charity dealt with 86,000 enquiries during the Covid-19 pandemic

Advice NI, Northern Ireland’s leading advice charity, highlighted at the launch of their annual report that they dealt with 86,000 enquiries from the public on the Covid-19 Community Helpline from the beginning of the pandemic. 

The Covid-19 Community Helpline operationalised in 2020 as the first lockdown was announced and was set to assist the most vulnerable in Northern Ireland at times of grave uncertainty and throughout lockdown. Initially, it provided advice to the public on the latest restrictions and signposted to Public Health Agency. As the crisis continued, the remit extended to assisting with food parcels & medicine to those identified as vulnerable and shielding. This was extended further as the helpline received unprecedented calls from the public for assistance with food, as many had lost an income source due to being unable to work in the lockdown.   

Another lockdown in October 2020, with colder winter months creeping in, led to calls asking for home heating assistance. Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey announced a fuel payment scheme, Warm, Well, Connected. The Covid-19 Community helpline once again provided much-needed assistance to the public on the Warm, Well, Connected scheme. The scheme was successful, and the helpline supported 14,227 people to receive emergency fuel payments.

Bob Stronge, Advice NI CEO, said:

“We received an unprecedented number of calls to the helpline, many heart-breaking stories from people frightened and unable either physically or financially to access food. Never before in the history of our organisation have we had to deal with so many requests from people in urgent need. The extraordinary amount of queries we dealt with and the numbers of people we helped during the pandemic are the perfect examples of just how vital free and independent advice services are today.

Staff working on the helpline had a clear goal to answer every call and query they received with empathy and humanity, all the while dealing with the realities of a global pandemic themselves, helping others while trying to keep their friends and families safe.

The response we were able to give is a testament to the dedication of Advice NI staff and volunteers and the herculean efforts they made. Outside of the Covid-19 Community Helpline, Advice NI and the Independent Advice Network continue to provide free advice to thousands of people in Northern Ireland every year. The Independent Advice Network has dealt with 294,515 enquiries on debt, benefits, immigration & Tax & Benefits in the last year.

Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey said:

“During the pandemic, advice organisations have been more critical than ever in providing emergency responses to those struggling financially, physically and emotionally; with Advice NI providing the Covid-19 Community Helpline which handled over 40,000 calls.”

The Independent Advice Sector plays a vital role in helping people to access their rights and entitlement to many government benefits, services and supports. I believe that access to independent, community-based advice is a right for everyone.”

For anyone struggling with debt/money issues, needing immigration or tax & benefits advice, Freephone the Advice NI helpline on  0800 915 4604.


Notes to Editors

To find out more about the work of the Independent Advice Network or to obtain copies of the various publications produced by Advice NI, please email comms@adviceni.net or visit our www.adviceni.net