A CORONAVIRUS fund grant to a benefits advice service will help cope with a 25 per cent rise in the number of people living with disability asking for help with claims for financial support.

The Independent Living Centre has been awarded £3,250 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund to increase the hours of its benefits advisor after the service has seen a gradual rise in clients since the first lockdown.

Chief executive Kevin Fairman said: “We are very grateful to the Wiltshire Community Foundation, the grant will make a difference because it will enable us to see more people and reduce waiting times.”

The centre is based in Semington, near Melksham, but has clients from all over the county.

He said the increase in clients is down to the fact that there are few places to go for advice and more people are falling into poverty because of the pandemic. “There are fewer and fewer services able to provide this kind of help generally, particularly with Universal Credit. Claiming is digital by default and a lot of people find that hard. Some people need help in person because they can’t get online and with the older generation, they find it hard to get the help they need.”

The centre has stayed open throughout the lockdown.

He said claimants’ natural stoicism or pride sometimes prevents them from answering questions on claim forms honestly. “Sometimes people get told ‘this is what you are getting’ and they don’t realise that is because they haven’t scored enough points on a particular question,” he added. “It is

hard if you’ve not dealt with the benefits system before because you’ve been in employment and now you’ve been furloughed maybe, it is hard to know where to start.

“It is tough for those people who may not have had to rely on the State before because they are proud they have worked all of their life and now, for the first time ever, they find themselves in a position where they do need some help and for a proud person it might be very difficult to accept and you need that support.”

Find out more about the centre at ilc.org.uk.