Referral system offers one-stop access to support and advice

Norfolk Community Law Service (NCLS) debt advisor Andy says there’s always a solution to debt and t

Norfolk Community Law Service (NCLS) debt advisor Andy says there’s always a solution to debt and that it's important to get advice as early as possible Picture: NCLS - Credit: Archant

Problems such as debt, relationship breakdown and unemployment can put a strain on our mental health, and often it’s hard to know where to turn first to get help. Norfolk Community Advice Network’s online referral system brings support together in one place.

Accessing the right help and support is so important when you’re struggling with social and legal problems which, if left unresolved, can also have a big impact on your mental health.

Not knowing which door to knock on first can be a big obstacle, but the Norfolk Community Advice Network (NCAN) brings together a range of charities working in these areas, so every Norfolk resident can access free, quality and impartial advice when they need it.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen problems such as job loss and family breakdown worsen. In response, the council has commissioned the wider rollout of an NCAN referral system, which helps make sure people only need to tell their story once, helping them access services like counselling or therapy, as well as support for financial, housing and legal problems.

The NCAN charities are very much ‘open for business’, quickly adapting to the new circumstances by providing advice and support on the telephone, by email and through other digital channels. Many people prefer to receive face-to-face support and NCAN is committed to providing this again as soon as it is safe to do so.

Andy is a debt advisor at Norfolk Community Law Service (NCLS). He said: “Debt is still a relatively taboo subject. A popular misconception is that people in debt are feckless with money, but the top reasons for getting into debt have been the same for years. It’s either that someone’s circumstances have changed or worsened, such as through job loss or a divorce, and what was previously a manageable debt has now got on top of them.

“When someone has a zero hours contract or is facing redundancy or Covid has closed their business, it can be really difficult. But there’s always a solution and usually several options, so it’s important to get advice as early as possible.”

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NCAN Charities:

Age UK Norfolk and Age UK Norwich – Offers help and advice to those aged 50 and over, including carers and families, about benefits, housing, debt, money, lasting power of attorney, social care and support. Other services available include telephone befriending and activities.

Equal Lives – Disability rights organisation led by disabled people. Areas include: debt, employment, welfare benefits, discrimination.

Shelter – Housing advice including tenancies, private/social housing, evictions, contracts, and homelessness.

Norfolk Community Law Service – Offers free, confidential and independent legal advice to people in Norfolk who might not otherwise be able to access legal assistance. Areas include: employment law, family law, general law, discrimination, domestic abuse, debt, immigration and welfare benefits (appeals and tribunals only).

MAP – Support and advice for 11-25 year olds on housing, money and benefits; employment, education and training; being a young parent; relationships, sex and sexual health; gender identity, mental health, drugs and alcohol.

Norfolk Citizens Advice and Diss and Thetford Citizens Advice – Broad range of advice including debt, benefit checks, housing, employment.

The Bridge Plus+ – Provides services that range across employment, equality, housing, immigration, and welfare benefits for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities in Norwich and surrounding areas.

Norfolk County Council Public Health has partnered with Archant to create a “Not Alone” supplement which raises awareness of the help and support on offer across the county. Click here to view the supplement.