Welcome to the latest instalment of our ‘Meet The Team’ series, where we introduce you to the people behind the scenes helping our clients at Citizens Advice Bury & Bolton. In our last instalment we met our Customer Relations team – in case you missed it, you can read it here.

This month, we talked to Ian Boote, our Welfare Benefits Team Supervisor, to find out more about how the Benefits team helps the residents of Bury & Bolton.

What is your role at CABB and how long have you been at Citizens Advice?

My name is Ian and I’m the Benefits Team Supervisor at CABB. I originally joined Citizens Advice as a volunteer. I found the work varied and interesting and have now been here over 22 years. In my current role as a supervisor, I oversee a team of twelve advisers who provide specialist support to clients relating to welfare benefits.

What responsibilities does your day-to-day role involve as a team supervisor?

On a typical daily basis, I’ll be providing frontline advice to clients on drop-in, telephone and appointments. The team deals with a variety of enquiries, both locally and nationally.
I coordinate the rotas to ensure our service is available and provide support to the team with their cases – the welfare benefits team supports clients with all benefit enquiries, including Universal Credit and legacy benefits.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the number of clients needing benefits advice?

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant it’s been a very hard year for many residents in Bury & Bolton. With unemployment, illness and reduced incomes, this has created a demand for reliable welfare benefits advice on an unprecedented scale.

So far this year, we’ve already assisted over 5000 clients with 17,000 different issues, ranging from one-off advice to substantive advice for our more vulnerable clients.

How do you anticipate the upcoming changes to Universal Credit affecting our clients?

The twin impact of the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit along with increasing food and fuel prices will put incredible pressure on all the people of Bury & Bolton. As well as this, there’s also the restarting of evictions, debt recovery and end of the furlough and Job Retention schemes, plus the continuing impact of Brexit that will have a huge impact on many residents.

Finally, what would you say to someone who is reluctant about seeking advice on a benefits issue?

It’s important to remember that at Citizens Advice, our help is always free, impartial and confidential. Our advisers will never judge anyone, no matter what their situation and we always do everything we can to put people at ease during the process.

Good advice gives people choices and choices give control back to people during a difficult time in their lives. It’s very rare that anyone who contacts us for advice leaves feeling in a worse position than they came to us in. Don’t be shy, we’re here to help.

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