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CAB aids over 1,000 in need of digital support during pandemic

Eyleen Gomez

Over 1,000 people have been assisted by the Citizen Advice Bureau Gibraltar online digital support services since the first Covid-19 lockdown of 2020.

The range of tasks the staff at CAB are as varied as the ages of the people requiring their help.

Pili Rodriguez the bureau manager together with her deputy Ivan Cruz ensure that everyone who needs assistance gets it with Mr Cruz commenting that all the staff go above and beyond what most would expect to help people out.

An aspect of CAB both he and Ms Rodriguez are proud of.

The online digital service has been popular Mr Cruz said, but it has not been without challenges either, especially when completing forms over the phone.

“The way forward was to do it here in the office,” he said.

“We have access to the Government intranet and the forms online and we have been able to complete as much information as possible and then send it back to the person in need of help.”

Ms Rodriguez gave the example of on Monday morning a lady needed help with her ID application and while they extract the information from their client over the phone they fill in the form online.

They also had an example of helping someone with their health card obtaining the information via WhatsApp.

“We get all the photos and information. We put it into a document and we scanned it and send to the GHA registration and then the card will be sent to the person,” she said.

“So that stops the person from thinking, ‘oh I have to get a photograph, I have to get the forms, how am I going to do it?’.”

Mr Cruz said when there were heavy restrictions during lockdown the task of helping people became harder.

While now a senior citizen, or anyone, could call them and can collect any forms downstairs in the CAB reception, during lockdown that was not possible.

“We do understand that many people had the complete inability to finish it and you require certain aspects such as a payment and we have not been able to do that,” he explained for many reasons including the financial resources to do so.

“Money is something we have strictly kept apart. We have done all the forms but then for the payment they would have to call the CSRO or whatever department to pay for their ID, passports etc,” said Mr Cruz.

Help with CSRO has been the most popular request. But they also deal with other requests such as help with termination of employment forms, applications for the minimum income or other benefits.

“Some of these forms you have to download them and some people find it very difficult to download because our clients are often vulnerable people who do not have the means or access so we download the forms for them,” said Ms Rodriguez.

They stress that the service is for anyone who needs it, regardless of age or nationality noting that some minority groups might struggle with online applications due to a language barrier.

“We have some community care officers who do some work here and we have some people who might need help writing letters, so you might have someone on the line saying they need to write a letter for housing for example. We get the information, you write the letter and then you give it to the client,” said Ms Rodriguez.

Mr Cruz added that they have also helped many people prepare a CV.

“Young people too, we have had people who have been terminated because of Covid issues or who have lost their job but their CV is antiquated or they have never done one. So we ask for the information over email and once we have it we will put the CV together,” he said.

Ms Rodriguez noted that sometimes people also do not even have an email address, so they help set one up if need be.

The team have also provided assistance for people who need help with respect to debts due to job losses or a change in family circumstances. They help with budgeting taking into account all income and expenses including loans. They have helped with respect to the payment of utility bills and worked out a repayment scheme with their client and the utility service regarding this.

The service they provide could be described as a one stop shop.

The range of help given is not restricted to assistance with forms or other online issues but also with the technology itself.

They noted that not everyone has access to computers or laptops and in addition, many do not know how to use this type of technology. From time to time they will have people asking them how do they use certain technology such as an iPad. They have had people in person as well as on the phone asking for help with this.

When the team were working from home providing these services were not impossible but they were understandably challenging as they are limited in their resources. Now that the office is open and the two teams are now back working together they hope they can continue providing the wide variety of services any member of the community needs.

Looking forward the CAB hope to offer their computer fun day at Bleak House once again where adults who are trying to come to grips with computers and technology can learn what they would like to do. Previous clients wanted to know how to find cross stitch patterns or to contact grandchildren who live overseas. Such is the popularity of the course it is always full. In addition, some of the original participants who have taken part since it was introduced in 2004 are now able to provide the teaching element. Details on when the next course will be will be announced at a later date.

The CAB office is on Governor’s Street and its opening hours during winter are Monday to Thursday 9.30am to 3.30pm and 9.30am to 3pm on Fridays. During summer hours the office is open from 8.30am to 1.30pm.

To contact them call 20040006 or visit https://www.cab.gi/

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