The Citizens Advice network has unlocked almost £147 million for people during the pandemic, according to figures.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said that despite the huge challenges presented by lockdown, with face-to-face advice restricted for large periods of 2020/21, it helped more than 171,000 people.
The network freed up £146.9 million for people through things like social security payments, employment entitlements and cheaper bills in the financial year.
CAS said it also increased access to advice, launching Scotland’s Citizens Advice Helpline weeks after the first lockdown as an emergency response to the pandemic, with citizens advice bureaux (CABs) across Scotland coming together to provide the service.
CAS chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “In a year like no other, when we had to stay apart in our homes, the Citizens Advice network came together to ensure people got vital help.
“To unlock £147 million for people in the last year is a simply staggering result. This is money going into the pockets of people in communities across the country.
“Lockdowns and social distancing restrictions posed a real challenge to CABs during the pandemic, but they didn’t miss a beat in transitioning to remote working.
“It’s important to remember that so much of the work CABs do requires face-to-face advice, whether that is because of the complex nature of the issue, the vulnerability of the client, or the simple reassurance people get from a friendly face.
“With the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind us, we’re focused on the economic fallout and what that will mean for people.”
During lockdown CAS said the the Citizens Advice network in Scotland quickly moved to remote working.
Nine hundred laptops were delivered across the country allowing advisers to work from home to ensure people still got the advice they needed.
CAS also developed and launched www.moneymap.scot, which allows people to round up their options to save on bills and increase their incomes.
Meanwhile the CAS Advice for Scotland website had more than 5.4 million views during the pandemic.