A dedicated helpline has supported local residents affected by the coronavirus pandemic to claim over £850,000 in benefits.

The Covid-19 Benefits Helpline, launched by the City of Wolverhampton Council's Welfare Rights Service, is open to anyone living or working in the city who is worried about, or needs support with, their benefit rights and entitlements following the coronavirus outbreak.

The helpline offers free and confidential advice and information about a whole range of benefits, including Statutory Sick Pay, Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.

It is available weekdays between 10am to noon and 2pm and 4pm on 07966 292321. Alternatively people can email wrs.covid19@wolverhampton.gov.uk. For further information please visit Financial support and guidance.  

Since the outbreak began, the helpline has received more than 500 calls from people whose finances have been impacted by coronavirus, for instance because they have fallen ill, been made redundant or had to give up work. And thanks to the support of members of the Welfare Rights Service, residents have been helped to claim around £16,500 a week in benefits, which works out as £850,000 annualised benefit gains for people in the city.

Councillor Linda Leach, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: “Many people, particularly those who may be experiencing it for the first time because of the current circumstances, find the complexities of the system a barrier to securing the benefits which they are entitled to. The Welfare Rights Service works with them to help them make successful claims. 

"The team is also able to resolve some benefit claim and payment problems by working together with established partners within the Department for Work and Pensions. 

"I am delighted that they've been able to support so many people at a time of great need, and would encourage anyone who is experiencing difficulties navigating the benefits system to get in touch so they can receive help and support."

Among those who have been helped by the Covid-19 Benefits Helpline is Bill Haycock from Wednesfield. He said: "I have always worked so I didn't know what I could claim. I have now applied for Universal Credit and Council Tax Support, and found the advice given most helpful.”

Nicola Brown from Penn said: “I found the helpline had the answers. It really helped being able to speak to someone, and the service was excellent." Albert Palmer from Heath Town added: "I found it very helpful because this was the first time I have had to apply for benefits.”

People working for organisations which support vulnerable residents have also turned to the Covid-19 Benefits Helpline for advice. Amy Brazenall from the Beacon Centre for the Blind said: "This is a fantastic service that I have relied on to help us provide continued essential support to vulnerable Beacon members in the community during the current health crisis. It is wonderful that so many organisations have come together to help the people who need us most.”

And Carol Nicholls, a Strengthening Families Worker with the City of Wolverhampton Council, said: "The service answered all my questions surrounding the benefit entitlement for a family I was working with. I will also be able to follow-up on things if problems arise in the future.”  

Councillor Leach said: "The Covid-19 Benefits Helpline is just one way in which the Welfare Rights Service is making a significant positive impact on the lives of local people. Last year alone, the team helped to secure just under £16 million in extra benefits for vulnerable and disadvantaged residents."

The latest information and guidance around coronavirus is available at GOV.UK and on the council’s own coronavirus pages at Coronavirus advice and information. There’s lots of advice on how people can protect themselves and their families from coronavirus from the NHS.  

The council’s Stay Safe, Be Kind campaign offers clear and simple advice about how people can help themselves, and how they can support others who may be particularly vulnerable at this time. For more information, please visit Stay Safe, Be Kind