- This article concerns the British advice charity. For Citizens Advice organisations in other nations see Citizens Advice Bureaux outside the United Kingdom.
The English language Citizens Advice logo following a rebrand in 2015
|United Kingdom 316 branches nationally.|
|Method||Telephone, face to face, e-mail, webchat|
|Gillian Guy (chief executive)|
|£88.2 million (2015) |
|Slogan||Helping people find a way forward|
|Mission||"to provide advice that helps people to overcome their problems and come together to campaign on big issues when their voices need to be heard"|
Citizens Advice[n 1] (previously Citizens Advice Bureau[n 2] and also known as Cyngor ar Bopeth[n 3] in Welsh) is a network of 316 independent charities throughout the United Kingdom that give free, confidential information and advice to assist people with money, legal, consumer and other problems. The twin aims of the Citizens Advice service are "to provide the advice people need for the problems they face" and secondly "to improve the policies and principles that affect people's lives" a research and campaigns agenda known as "social policy".
Citizens Advice organisations emerged in the 1930s, something linked to the emergence of a fledgling social welfare service and the outbreak of World War II. Public funding for the organisation was cut following the war but restored during the 1960s and a government grant in 1973 allowed the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (NACAB) to expand the charity. Citizens Advice has grown to be the largest independent advice provider in the United Kingdom. There are also a number of Citizens Advice organisations that base themselves on the United Kingdom advice charity mainly in parts of the Commmonwealth including Australia, New Zealand, and Gibraltar.
In 2013 the Citizens Advice Adviceguide website was visited by one third of United Kingdom's online population and Citizens Advice's own research shows that four in ten of the British population contact Citizens Advice at some point during their lives. In 2014 Citizens Advice celebrated its 75th anniversary and in 2015 the charity was named Charity of the Year at the 2015 Charity Awards. Under the leadership of the current Chief Executive Gillian Guy Citizens Advice has expanded its remit taking on the contract for the Witness Service and the face-to-face advice element of Pension Wise.
The origins of the modern Citizens Advice service can be traced back to the Betterton Report on Public Assistance from 1924. This report recommended that advice centres should be set up to offer members of the public advice to help them with their problems. During the 1930s, as preparations and plans were drawn up for the possibility of war, the role that the voluntary sector should have was determined. The National Council for Social Service (NCSS) called a meeting in 1938 in which plans to establish 'Citizens Aid Bureaux' were devised in the event of war. The first 200 bureaux opened on 4 September 1939, four days after World War II started. Many of these initial bureaux were run by 'people of standing' in the community. In The Story of The Citizens' Advice Bureaux Brasnett states that the typical bureau would include "a committee chairman the editor of a respected county paper, as treasurer a local bank manager; and among the members the manager of the employment exchange, an estate agent who was able to lend part of a house for offices". Brasnett also describes a range of groups running provincial bureau including Toc H, Rotary Clubs and Soroptomist Clubs. These first Citizens Advice Bureau's used an owl as their logo as it was felt this denoted wisdom. Brasnett states in The Story of the Citizens' Advice Bureau that these first bureau were mainly offshoots of established organisations in London and other large provincial cities. These organisations included the Charity Organisation Society (now the Family Welfare Association) and the London Council of Social Service, the Liverpool Personal Service Society, the City of Glasgow Society of Social Service, the Birmingham Citizens' Society (now the Birmingham Council of Social Service). By 1942, there were 1,074 bureaux in a wide range of improvised offices such as cafes, church halls, private homes and air raid shelters. Sheffield set up in the cloisters of Sheffield Cathedral after its premises were bombed during World War II and another bureau worked in Chislehurst Caves. Mobile offices also became important in ensuring that people could access advice. Many of the issues dealt with during that time were directly related to the war. These included the tracing of missing servicemen or prisoners of war, evacuations, pensions and other allowances.
Many war time bureaux closed at the end of the war, although it was apparent that there was still a need for the services that had been established. A particular problem was the chronic housing shortage in the years immediately following the end of the war. In the 1950s, the funding was cut and by 1960 there were only 415 bureaux. The Citizens Advice service continued due to charitable support from groups such as the Nuffield Foundation, Carnegie Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. In 1972, The Citizens Advice service became independent. Before then, the national organisation was part of NCSS (National Council of Social Services) and most bureaux were run by the local CVS (Council for Voluntary Service). In 1973, the government funded NACAB, the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, to enlarge the network. The 1984 afternoon television drama series Miracles Take Longer depicted the type of cases that a 1980s branch would have to deal with.
Since 2003, the operating name of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux changed to Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Cymru or Cyngor ar Bopeth in Wales. In the same year Citizens Advice became the first advice sector organisation to begin to audit the quality of their advice. In 2008/9, there were 416 member bureaux offering advice from over 3,300 locations in England and Wales and a further 22 bureaux in Northern Ireland all of which are independent charities. Despite the large number of volunteers working for the organisation, level of demand for the service often far outstrips resources. Citizens Advice has recently begun looking at ways to reach all members of the community through new mediums such as email advice and digital TV. Another initiative has been allowing university students to train as advisers to gain credits toward their degree. This was pioneered by a partnership between the University of Portsmouth and Portsmouth Citizens Advice Bureau and is also now available at Birmingham City University, University of Reading, University of Northampton, Glasgow Caledonian University, and University of Glasgow. Training as a Citizens Advice adviser can earn a person up to six months off a training contract if training as a solicitor.
The current Chief Executive Gillian Guy took over her role in 2010. At the start of her tenure Citizens Advice faced a budget cut of 9% however finances have recently improved with the charity increasing its income from £62m to £77m between 2013 and 2015. This is largely a result of Citizens Advice taking over roles that were previously performed by the quangos the Office of Fair Trading and Consumer Futures. During 2012 and 2013 Citizens Advice adopted an Equality Strategy known as 'Stand Up For Equality' which aims to embed an equality agenda in all work Citizens Advice does. In 2014 Citizens Advice took over the role that Victim Support played in supporting court witnesses. This contract is worth £24m. This service was renamed the Witness Service. Also in 2014 Citizens Advice took over the role of Consumer Focus which represents consumers of regulated industries (energy and the postal service). This service was renamed Consumer Futures. In 2015 Citizens Advice began to deliver Pension Wise guidance. In 2015 Citizens Advice adopted a rebrand dropping the 'Bureau' from its name. The rebrand will cost £1 million which includes £215,000 for research and development, £450,000 in financial support to implement the changes and £300,000 to cover local costs such as posters and materials. In 2015 Citizens Advice introduced a webchat service allowing people to contact Citizens Advice advisers online.
Aims and Principles
Although an independent and impartial organisation Citizens Advice has a peculiar relationship with Government in that it is dependent upon Government for funding but also acts as a high profile critic of government policy. At a Citizens Advice conference in 1957 Lord Denning, then Lord Justice of Appeal described the complex relationship between Citzens Advice and the state describing how Citizens Advice was "supported indeed by the state, but not controlled by it; supported by local authorities but not controlled by them, and, I hope like the law, never to be controlled by any public authority".
All Citizens Advice Bureaux and workers for the bureaux must adhere to these principles, and bureaux must demonstrate that they adhere to these principles in order to retain membership of the national umbrella bodies.Citizens Advice state that their vision "is that everyone will be able to access free advice to find a way forward". They also that that their "charitable mission is to provide advice that helps people to overcome their problems and come together to campaign on big issues when their voices need to be heard".
The trade publication Third Sector state that around 60% of Citizens Advice funding comes from Government sources. Citron argues that there is a tension in the relationship between Citizens Advice and Government as while the charity relies on Government funding to survive it is most effective as high profile critics of Government policy. Local bureau received funding of £167m in 2014. Although Citizens Advice is a national charity local bureau are responsible for raising their own funding. Some of this may some from other charities such as the National Lottery, from local authorities or from other services such as the Legal Services Commission. Citizens Advice suffered cuts during the recession flowing from the Global Financial Crisis and over 100 Citizens Advice offices have closed or lost as a result of merger since 2009. Others resorted to reduced services. Some Councils have been forced to cut funding for Citizens Advice services and these cuts led to complaints that Citizens Advice was not meeting growing needs for its services during a period of high demand. 
Both Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland are registered charities and are financed partly by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, although both organisations are completely independent of central government. Member bureaux also pay heavily-subsidised subscriptions for the services offered. They often receive significant funding by local authorities, and local solicitors may agree to provide limited legal advice pro bono. In 2013 the then Consumer Minister Jo Swinson announced a further £9.5m in order for the charity to champion consumer work and in 2015 Martin Lewis founder of Money Saving Expert donated £1m to Citizens Advice.
A lot of the Citizens Advice service's work involves providing advice on issues such as debt management and welfare benefits, housing, immigration and asylum, employment, consumer complaints and landlord-tenant disputes. Citizens Advice have calculated that in 2014 it helped 2.5 million people with 6.4 million problems. 48% clients were dealt with face to face, 45% by telephone and 7% by e-mail or webchat.
Advice is available in the bureaux, but also in community venues, in people's homes, by phone, by e-mail and online both via a Webchat service and the Citizens Advice public site known as "Advice Guide". Telephone advice also known as Adviceline can be accessed in English and a bilingual service in Wales. One Citizens Advice page shows in real time what individuals are searching for on the website, what searches from the search engine Google caused an individual to reach the Citizens Advice page and what Citizens Advice website content is most popular. Citizens Advice also runs a consumer helpline to help with consumer issues. The most popular areas of enquiry are benefits and debt with housing the third most popular enquiry area. Each Citizens Advice office operates differently. Some will have specialist staff that deal with certain cases such as debt or housing. Some operate a 'Gateway' system which means clients are booked for advice at a later appointment and other Citizens Advice offer 'drop in' Generalist Advice sessions. At some Citizens Advice offices solicitors may offer short appointments on a pro bono basis as a way of gaining clients.
Citizens Advice has a number of advice partnerships with organisations in areas including money and partnership with Macmillan to help those affected by cancer. Citizens Advice has a partnership with the housing advice charity Shelter called the National Homelessness Advice Service which is able to offer advisers specialist housing and homelessness advice. The partnership is funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. From 2015 Citizens Advice offices have been used to deliver Pension Wise guidance.
Citizens Advice also engages in preventative work in order to prevent problems arising in the first place. Citizens Advice is the Government-funded provider of consumer education in Great Britain. There are 11 Consumer Empowerment Partnerships that work closely with Trading Standards. A financial capability agenda helps people to manage their money so as to not develop money problems in the first place. Citizens Advice also produces education resources to improve financial capability and consumer education. A Partnerships Intelligence Team works in order to support the work of regulators. One example of this is research on Continuous Payment Authorities in order to help the Financial Conduct Authority better regulate them.
Research and Campaigns
The Citizens Advice service, both locally and nationally, also uses clients' problems as evidence to influence policy makers to review laws or administrative practices which cause undue difficulties to clients, in a process referred to as "Social Policy". At a national level Citizens Advice engages in policy research in order to recommend policy changes. Current research areas include domestic abuse, problems in the private rented sector, welfare, work, pensions, energy policy and the postal service.
A public affairs team works with Parliament. There is also a Citizens Advice All-Party Parliamentary Group that provides a forum for Members of Parliament who are interested in the work of Citizens Advice. Citizens Advice produces constituency data that can be used by Parliamentarians to improve how they complete their own case work. Advice Trends data is published at a national and local level. Consumer Advice Trends data is also published as is data for Wales alone and data on the performance of energy suppliers and the postal service.
Current campaigns include:
- Settled and safe: a renter's right
- Talk about abuse
- Secure self-employment
- Know your New Rights
- Big Energy Saving Week 2015
- Mad about the ad
Citizens Advice measures the impact of its advice across a range of areas. Citizens Advice research has calculated that for every £1 spent on the Citizens Advice service the Government saves £1.51 through reductions in health service demand, local authority homelessness services and out-of-work benefits and £8.74 in wider economic and social benefits and £10.94 in benefit to individuals. Research shows that Citizens Advice has an impact on the most disadvantaged in society with Citizens Advice clients five times more likely to live in poverty than the average member of the United Kingdom population. Citizen Advice's own research has also known that volunteering has positive benefits in terms of helping people gain practical skills and improving mental health. Each year 31% of Citizens Advice's volunteers leave the service for paid employment and it has been calculated that the work of Citizens Advice volunteers is worth £111 million.Citizens Advice's campaigns work has had a number of successes including the Financial Conduct Authority capping payday loans. A Twitter hashtag #CABlive is used to publicise the work of Citizens Advice on social media.
A Trustee Board provides strategic direction and vision for the organisation. The Chief Executive working with the Executive Team is responsible for delivering the board's vision.
Below the Trustee Board a number of committees exist:
- Chair's Committee
- Audit Risk Committee
- Equality Committee
- Cymru Committee
- Trustee Recruitment Committee
- Membership and Standards Committee
- Renumeration Committee
- Technology Committee
The Citizens Advice service is one of the largest volunteer organisations in the United Kingdom with 21,600 volunteers. The majority of these are part-time volunteer advisers, but the figure also includes trustees and administrators. While volunteers have varying levels of training, they are all required to receive basic training to ensure they fully understand the nature of the service including the four basic principles. Typically there will be a paid bureau manager, advice session supervisors and in some cases some paid advisers. Some staff may be qualified to give specialist legal advice or to advise on immigration. Each Citizens Advice is a affiliated to the national organisation but they are managed and run locally. Many bureaux are also limited companies and may have a board of directors, who will also be the organisation's trustees. Bureaux throughout the United Kingdom have varying community needs and very different resources, and consequently offer different styles and levels of service. All bureaux in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are members of Citizens Advice, the operating name of The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. Northern Ireland bureaux are also members of the Northern Ireland Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (NIACAB). Bureaux in Scotland are members of Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), part of the Scottish Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux. Citizens Advice holds an Annual Conference each year. In 2015 this was held at the University of Warwick.
Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland act as umbrella bodies for the bureaux in the UK. They provide access to information, training courses and consultancy services for all bureaux, and regularly audit individual bureaux against the requirements of their respective membership standards. All bureaux try to ensure their services are accessible to all sections of the community, so that provision can be made for the housebound, immigrant communities, rural inhabitants, elderly and disabled as appropriate. Membership of Citizens Advice gives each bureau access to the national information portal, known as AdviserNet and to internet access provided through a Virtual Private Network. Information on clients' problems and the advice offered to them is entered into the Petra national database. Its predecessor system was CASE.
Citizens Advice has a number of diversity groups known as Self Organised Network Groups (SONGs). These include:
- National Black Workers’ Group
- National Disabled Workers’ Group
- National Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Group
- National Women’s Group
In other nations
Organisations modelled on Citizens Advice have been created in other nations outside of the United Kingdom. All of these organisations are autonomous and are not in any way controlled by the British organisation although some have adopted the branding of the British Citizens Advice. The Citizens Advice Bureau serving Western Australia has 10 branches of Citizens Advice Bureau and uses the same branding as the British charity. New Zealand has over 80 Citizens Advice Bureau sites situated on both North Island and South Island. There is also a Spanish Citizens Advice Bureau organisation aimed at helping British expats in Spain and a Gibraltan Citizens Advice Bureau. An unrelated organisation Citizens Advice International was established in 2004 to promote free advice services and to promote Citizens Advice organisations throughout the world.
Notes and References
- Citizens Advice is the operating name of The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureau which is the umbrella charity for a wider network of local advice centres. The abbreviation CitA is sometimes used to refer to this national Citizens Advice organiaton. Citizens Advice does not use an apostrophe in its title something the organisation dropped during the 1980s. However it appears in earlier usage for instance Margaret Brassnett's 1964 publication The Story of the Citizens' Advice Bureau.
- The abbreviation CABx, short for Citizens Advice Bureaux, is sometimes used to refer collectively to local Citizens Advice offices.
- Cyngor ar Bopeth translates as 'advice on everything'
- "Citizens Advice launches £1m rebrand and modernisation programme and drops the word ‘bureau’". Civilsociety.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
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- 02 March 2015 , Be the First to Comment (2015-03-02). "Gillian Guy of Citizens Advice on moving with the times". Third Sector. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
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- "Citizens Advice £1m re-brand slammed as ‘facile’ by Advice UK". Lag.org.uk. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- "75 for the 75th appeal |". Blogs.citizensadvice.org.uk. 2014-08-18. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- Jill Insley. "Citizens Advice cuts threaten the most vulnerable | Money". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
- "On the front line with the Citizens Advice Bureau". BBC News.
- "Campaigns". Enfieldcab.org.uk. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
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- "CAB New Zealand- Free Advice". Cab.org.nz. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "gcab". Cab.gi. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- "What we do and how we can help". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- Jack Simpson. "Citizens Advice Bureau 75 year anniversary: Geese too loud? Lost false teeth? We can help! Celebrating seven decades of the CAB | Home News | News". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- "Citizens Advice named 'Charity of the Year'! | Rural Devon Citizen's Advice Bureau". Ruraldevoncab.org.uk. 2015-10-13. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- "Citizens Advice succeeds Victim Support running £12m-per-year court witness service". Civilsociety.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- "Government reveals Pension wise brand for new pensions guidance". Citizens Advice. 2015-01-12. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- Fisher, G. (2009) Advice on Everything: A History of the Citizens Advice Bureau in Harrow 1939-2009, www.citizensadvice.org.uk/harrow_cab_history.pdf
- "Citizen's Advice Bureau Website".
- "Harlow CAB". Harlowcitizensadvice.org.uk. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "Citizen's Advice Bureau". Epsomandewellhistoryexplorer.org.uk. 1939-08-31. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- Sloviter, D. (1979) Let's look at the Citizens Advice Bureaux, American Bar Association Journal, April 1979, vol. 65, p. 568
- "History of the Citizens Advice service". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- This literally translates as "Advice on everything"
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- "Pro bono | The Open University Law School". Open.ac.uk. 2015-05-27. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
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- Randeep Ramesh. "New Citizens Advice chief executive promises fresh direction | Society". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- 02 March 2015 , Be the First to Comment (2015-03-02). "Gillian Guy of Citizens Advice on moving with the times". Third Sector. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- "service equality strategy". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "£24 million grant to support witnesses at court - Press releases". GOV.UK. 2014-11-15. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- "How to make the most of your Pension Wise appointment". Citizens Advice. 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- 30 April 2015 by Andy Ricketts, 1 comment (2015-04-30). "Citizens Advice begins ÂŁ1m rebrand and drops 'bureau' from names of local branches". Third Sector. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- "Citizens Advice Oxfordshire :: CAB launches web chat service for clients to discuss problems online". Caox.org.uk. 2015-10-22. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- "Confidentiality". Hillingdoncab.org.uk. 2014-12-15. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- "HECA Home". Hillingdoncab.org.uk. 2015-10-26. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "Citizens' Advice Bureaux: For the Community, by the Community: Amazon.co.uk: Judith Citron: 9780745302812: Books". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- Jill Insley. "Citizens Advice cuts threaten the most vulnerable | Money". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- Armstrong, Jeremy (2013-03-11). "Citizens Advice Bureau funding squeeze threatens offices - Mirror Online". Mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
- "earnout payment announced today". Moneysavingexpert.com. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- "Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis gifts £1 million to". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- National statistics available on the Citizens Advice CABlink system
- "Our advice for you". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- Andrew Griffin (2014-12-04). "Citizens Advice Bureau offers live insight into British life | Home News | News". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- "Citizens Advice Dashboard". Display-screen.citizensadvice.org.uk. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- "Contact the consumer helpline". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- "Advice partnerships". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
- "Money advice services". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- "Money Advice Service in Wales". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- "Cancer support service". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- "National homelessness advice service". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
- "to deliver Pension Wise from more than 500 locations". Citizens Advice. 2015-03-09. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
- "Our prevention work". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "consumer education". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- "About Financial Skills for Life". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- "education resources". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "Consumer education resources". Citizens Advice. 2015-10-01. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "Financial capability resources". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- Oct 19 (2015-10-19). "Partnership Intel on Twitter: "we're off to @TheFCA to show them emerging findings from our research on CPAs #CABLive"". Twitter.com. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- "Our policy research work". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
- "Empowering victims of domestic abuse". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- "Private renters". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- "and working with Parliament". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
- "Advice trends". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-10-24.
- "Consumer advice trends 2014/15". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- "Consumer Advice Trends 2015/16". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
- "Settled and safe: a renter's right campaign". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "Talk about abuse campaign". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "Secure self-employment". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- "Know your New Rights". Citizens Advice. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
- Citizens Advice (2015) The value of the Citizens Advice service: Our Impact in 2014/15, self-published report, p. 28
- Citizens Advice Annual Report 2014/2015, p. 33
- Gillespie, A. and Weare, S. (2015) The English Legal System, 5th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 343
- "Suggested titles:". Webcache.googleusercontent.com. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- "Citizens Advice Bureau - Branches". Cabwa.com.au. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
- Citron, J. (1989) Citizens Advice Bureaux: For the Community, By the Community, Pluto Press. ISBN 9780745302812
- Richards, J. (1988) Inform, Advise and Support: Fifty Years of the Citizens' Advice Bureau, ISBN 0718827538
- Brasnett, M. (1964) The Story of the Citizens' Advice Bureaux (ASIN: B0010X9XEA)
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