More than half of AdviceUK’s 761 member organisations subscribe to AdvicePro, the web-based case management system. Using its group reporting functionality, AdviceUK can analyse data on AdvicePro to find out about the clients who seek advice from AdviceUK members and about the cases opened for them.
AdviceUK has produced a report containing information about clients and cases for the 12 months ending 31 March 2021. The report shows the impact that COVID-19 had on advice service delivery. Case volumes fell dramatically in most areas of social welfare law as the first lockdown measures were introduced. This was because AdviceUK members had to close face-to-face advice delivery, and it took some time before many were able to provide advice via remote delivery channels. Many clients of advice services are digitally excluded, reliant on face-to-face delivery and therefore struggle to access services remotely. There were two main exceptions to this overall trend: there were sharp increases in domestic abuse and employment cases following the pandemic and case volumes in these areas of social welfare ran at much higher levels after the pandemic than before.
The largest number of cases were about welfare benefits issues (58% of the total), followed by debt and money, housing and employment. Utilities was the top debt issue, followed by consumer credit, rent arrears and council tax. The top employment issues were COVID-19, pay and entitlements, and redundancy. Eligibility, the claiming process and mandatory reconsiderations and appeals were the leading welfare benefits issues.
59% of clients identified as female, 72% were aged between 25 and 64, and 32% identified themselves as belonging to an ethnic minority (this compares to UK Government figures which show that ethnic minorities comprise 14% of the total UK population).