Who Are The Citizens Advice Bureau And How Can I Use Them?


More often than not the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has offices in each town across the UK. They receive funding from local authorities, lottery funds, and donations, and despite resources being repeatedly stretched, they offer free impartial advice to those who turn up at their doors.

The Citizens Advice Bureau provide free advice on a range of issues
So how can they help you, and how do you use their services?

What Do The CAB Do?

The CAB offer advice on a wide range of issues, including welfare and benefits, debt, consumer rights, housing, relationships, work, legal matters, and many more. Even if they cannot provide the advice and direct assistance themselves, or there is someone better placed to do so, they will point you in the right direction, so that you can always get the help you need.

This is often referred to as 'signposting'.

Different bureaux operate differently, but depending on the needs of the area and funding constraints, they will either run a drop in system, or take appointments, and the advice service is 'tiered'.

This means:
  • After speaking to reception, you will have a short appointment with an assessor, who will take down the details of your problem, and identify how the bureau can help you
  • After this, the bureau will decide how they can best assist you, whether by arranging a meeting with a trained advisor with knowledge of the problem, giving you information to take away, or signposting you to another service better suited to helping you
Alternatively, some services can be offered over the phone when getting to a bureau would be difficult for you. In some circumstances, home visits can be offered too.

If you want to know more about your local CAB, click here to find your local bureau.

More recently, the CAB has also been granted the contract to handle a government scheme for providing free guidance to those coming up to retirement. This could be well timed for some, as pensions can often be affected by issues such as divorce.

In Your Community

As well as their advice service, the CAB collate information based upon the kinds of cases they see, to speak out about issues of 'social policy'.

Don't worry, they won't start plastering your case across the papers without permission! They gather statistics, which show trends about what's going on, and what people are having problems with, so that they can lobby for change.

One area in which the CAB is currently involved is mandatory reconsideration, which is where someone trying to claim Employment and Support Allowance can have their application looked at a second time. The CAB has suggested that it could actually be more cost effective to provide people with the benefit whilst this reconsideration takes place, and reduce hardship. They have found that many of their clients have been waiting 6 weeks without getting a decision, despite promises of a 2 week turnaround by the Department for Work and Pensions.

How Can I Use The CAB?

Apart from attending or calling in, there are several things you can do to assist the advisors. The main thing you need to do is bring any relevant documentation with you. For example, this may include:
  • Information relating to your income or benefits, such as bank statements, bills and DWP letters
  • Letters of correspondence with whoever you're dealing with, e.g. a former spouse or their solicitor
  • Legal forms and court documents
The CAB can be a great starting point for many individuals with a wide range of issues. With sole legal issues, they may decide that the most appropriate action is to signpost you to a solicitor.

For example, while the CAB may not be in a position to assist you in court with divorce, they can help with the financial problems caused by the breakdown of a marriage.

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