Community workers across the UK are receiving training to help vulnerable people access COVID-19 financial support, in response to fears that millions could be plunged into crisis because they can’t use the internet to find crucial help.
The COVID Cash Course has been set up by the Just Finance Foundation (JFF) – part of the Church Urban Fund – to help the most marginalised people in the country negotiate the maze of new rules, regulations and benefits as a result of the pandemic.
While there is a lot of information available online, more than a million people don’t use the internet at all (Exploring the UK’s digital divide, ONS, 2018). The JFF says there are many more who can get online, but lack the skills needed to find the support available to them.
Sarah Wallace, Director of the JFF, said:
“The complex, changing picture of support has been challenging even for us as a charity to negotiate, so it’s no wonder the people who need this help the most are becoming overwhelmed.
“We want them to fully understand their options, rather than making hasty decisions that may leave them in an even worse situation later on.”
The JFF is training local community workers to deliver information and signposting both online and over the phone to people who don’t have internet access.
“We need to reach the people who would normally turn up at their local church hall with a plastic bag full of bills, asking for help,” said Sarah.
“Some of the services that would previously have supported them aren’t open, so we are working with local communities to make sure there’s someone there for them and they’re not overwhelmed.”
Upwards of 50 grass-roots community groups have already signed up for training to deliver the course, and the JFF is rolling out further training in response to high demand.
The course can be tailored to the individual’s needs, but provides an introduction to the support available, including benefits, job retention schemes, rent and debt advice, budgeting and dealing with worry.
The JFF’s president is Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and trustees include Former HSBC group chair Sir Douglas Flint and former Financial Services Authority CEO Sir Hector Sants.