Serious financial problems will face many Dorset residents in the coming months.

The warning comes from the manager of the Dorchester-based Citizens Advice Bureau, Daniel Cadisch, as he starts to build up a team of advisers to help deal with the problems.

He says the knock-on of the pandemic will soon result in more job losses as Government funding schemes come to an end and a ‘disproportionate’ long term effect on some younger people.

The local office has already seen an unprecedented 500 per cent rise in employment inquiries – compared to the same time a year ago.

He warned that there will also be a dramatic increase in court action being taken by landlords to re-possess their properties for non-payment of rent.

He said there has been a lull in legal action for months because the courts have not been sitting and many lawyers have not been working – but as the courts get back to normal so re-possessions cases will rise.

Mr Cadisch told an online meeting of Dorchester town council on Monday evening that the county would suffer financial and housing problems and more help was needed.

“The lives of many people had already been turned upside down,” he said, but added that his own staff and volunteers had come forward to meet the challenges: “people just stepped up and delivered. It has been staggering how people gave their time to help,” he said.

In response to a question from Cllr Les Fry, he revealed that the bureau was already concerned about households where arrears running into thousands of pounds had built up. He warned that young people, in particular, would be disproportionately affected in the long-term by the crisis.

The director said he and other staff had spent a great deal of time during the pandemic interpreting the, often changing, advice and guidance from the Government and helping to fill the gaps in support networks.

He said calls  had come from people who had been laid off, those who were unable to get out and had difficulties getting food and medicines, and from people who felt vulnerable and isolated; “a lot of people have not got access to the internet, or even phones,” he reminded councillors.

He said his attention was now turning to building up a team of experts who could help with queries about employment as furlough schemes come to an end and those who had built up rent arrears as well as arrears on gas and electric payments.

“I’m very concerned about the coming surge in (home) possession cases for rent arrears. We need to try and help keep people in their homes.

“I want to set up a specialist employment unit, we have got some funding for that but we need more, so that we can give good advice and help keep as many people in work as possible,” he said.