There are many benefits to being a Citizens Advice Bureau, providing quality-assured advice and information and benefiting from the central support offered by Citizens Advice Scotland. Here is a little more information on what's involved - and what's in it for you and your organisation.
Benefits of full membership
There are many benefits to full membership, including:
- Name: Use of the name “Citizens Advice Bureau” and authority to display the Citizens Advice Bureau logo on letterhead and other materials. This is particularly useful in relation to making funding applications, as many funding bodies recognise and respect the work of bureaux. Probationary bureaux are entitled to use the Citizens Advice Bureau name and brand for the period of their probationary membership.
- Representation: One voting representative may attend Citizens Advice Scotland Annual General Meetings and may be nominated for the board of directors and/or standing committees, contributing to policy-making for the organisation. This means that you will be able to influence national policy and input to national strategic developments, should you wish.*
- Fundraising: Assistance with fundraising, covering advice and assistance in identifying sources of funding, negotiating with statutory and other funders, assistance with putting funding applications together and consultancy and advice on related issues such as monitoring and evaluation.
- Quality assurance: Coverage by Citizens Advice Scotland's nationally recognised quality assurance scheme. There is, and almost certainly will continue to be, increased regulation of the advice sector and increasingly funders are seeking reassurances that agencies meet nationally-recognised standards prior to providing or continuing funding. The Citizens Advice Scotland quality assurance scheme has been recognised by the Office of the Immigration Commissioner, Consumer Support Networks and the Scottish Government (in relation to Scottish National Standards) as “passportable”, so that bureaux do not have to undergo several assessments by several bodies to continue to deliver the range of advice services that they provide at present. The Citizens Advice Bureau brand is recognised by many funders, who understand and take it as read that effective quality assurance measures are in place. This can make fundraising easier than is can be for smaller organisations with less visibility.
- Development Team services: Access to the consultancy, support and advice provided by Citizens Advice Scotland's development staff. This includes provision of many key documents, computer software programmes and so on that contribute to the effective and efficient running of an advice and information service. Local authorities and other funders are increasingly looking for many of these documents when they are considering funding applications and service level agreements.
- IT: Advice, guidance and some cost reductions in relation to IT and related equipment, including access to IT support services to deal with hardware and software problems as they arise and advice on the purchase of IT and associated equipment. Citizens Advice Scotland's IT team supports electronic case management systems, internet and intranet services, email and other systems to ensure that bureaux can make full use of the opportunities presented by digital technology.
- Information: Receipt of the electronic information system, AdviserNet, and monthly supplies of books and other reference material. The system includes many reference books such as CPAG manuals and magazines such as SCOLAG, which an advice agency would otherwise have to purchase. Training is available in use of the information system.
- Training: Access to the Scottish Bureau Tutor Scheme including use of Citizens Advice Scotland's training materials. At present, voluntary organisations are charged for courses run by Citizens Advice Scotland, whereas Citizens Advice Bureau staff and volunteers can attend as part of their subscription. Training is available for advisers, tutors, management committee or board members, caseworkers, mentors and others within the bureau. This includes direct provision of training courses, provision of training materials, advice and assistance for tutors and access to a wide range of training resources. Included within this are competence and competence assessment methods for general advisers and for caseworkers, eg: for money advice. Assistance is also available to bureaux wishing to offer Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) to their staff and volunteers.
- Legal advice: Access to specialist legal advisers to assist volunteers or paid staff on the ground to deal with complex cases with legal implications. Similarly, access to specialist second tier support, consultancy and training in relation to housing and money advice enquiries.
- Insurance: Public liability, professional indemnity insurance and personal accident cover for the bureau together with cover by the group Consumer Credit Licence, as required by the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Again, these are provided as part of the cost of subscription.
- Funds: An opportunity to apply for development and emergency finance from the development funds administered by the Development Committee of the Association
- Marketing: Support with marketing and promoting the Citizens Advice Bureau Service in general and for individual bureaux where there are special events or issues to raise. This includes provision of marketing materials and advice and guidance on marketing and promotional techniques.
- National developments: Access to opportunities to participate in and benefit from national projects, eg: the development of advice services in health settings, in-court advice projects, financial inclusion projects etc.
- Social policy: Opportunities to participate in and contribute to national and regional social policy initiatives that can help to tackle some of the problems that clients face and prevent them happening to others. This can help agencies to raise issues and defend the rights of the people in their own local communities.
*Probationary members enjoy all of the rights above except those of Representation. However, they may send observers to Citizens Advice Scotland Annual General Meetings.
Responsibilities of membership
With membership comes responsibilities, including:
- Constitution/Memorandum and Articles of Association: Members must adopt a constitution or memorandum and articles of association that is accepted for tax and charitable purposes by the Inland Revenue and by the Office of the Charity Regulator in Scotland for charitable purposes, as well as complying with Citizens Advice Scotland guidance.
- Nominees: Unincorporated member bureaux must appoint Nominees for Membership whose names will appear on the Company Register. The name of an incorporated member bureau alone will appear in the Company Register.
- Subscription: Members shall pay a subscription to Citizens Advice Scotland at the rates which may from time to time be determined once they become probationary members.
- Full membership: Full membership is conditional upon bureaux operating on the basis of the 12 principles of the Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau Service, which set out a series of membership requirements.
If you are interested in becoming a Citizens Advice Bureau please contact David Brownlee, Head of Bureau Services, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0131 550 1000.