CITIZENS ADVICE – AN OVERSTRETCHED BUT REMARKABLE RESOURCE

BBC2’s Newsnight ran an informative and inspiring piece this week, highlighting the wide range of support provided by the Citizens Advice organisation. Demand for their services is increasing – nationally it’s quadrupled since the start of the recession – while funding has been cut.

Volunteers: the backbone of the CAB service

We saw the workings of the Coventry CAB (that’s what the individual bureaux are called here in the UK), staffed mostly by volunteers including Brian Adams, a 75-year-old former miner who has been a volunteer there for almost ten years. He says he finds it “fulfilling to help people” and the feeling is shared by three generations of his family. His daughter began volunteering at the bureau and then made the switch to paid work as the receptionist; and his 16-year-old grandson, who is still at school, volunteers too.

School outreach: a win/win collaboration

Talking of schools, we saw a most innovative collaboration with local schools, through whose involvement confidential referrals can be made. And while the school is acting as a kind of outreach branch of the local CAB, we heard from a head teacher who reported a fantastic impact on the pupils: measures of academic achievement had doubled and absenteeism had halved.

Personally, I cannot speak highly enough of the benefits that Citizens Advice brings to communities in so many ways. Watch the film, I urge you!

Debt advice

This blog is about debt. When I had my own problems in the 90s, the local CAB were a fantastic help to me, as they have been to countless others. You can book a face-to-face meeting – though you might have to wait a little because, as I said, they are overstretched – or use their excellent online help service.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

For the Citizens Advice online help service.

For details of your nearest CAB (UK only: sorry, folks, if you don’t live here), there’s a search box on their home page.

For the full Newsnight TV piece (only 12 minutes).

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