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Social policy - changing lives

What is social policy?

Citizens Advice Scotland undertakes work to influence the development of social policy in the UK. But what is social policy?

Social policy is, in broad terms, public policy that relates to social issues. These social issues relate to our wellbeing and include things like housing, healthcare, education, money, jobs, welfare benefits - in short, the types of issues brought to Citizens Advice Bureaux and to our consumer service.  

Citizens Advice Scotland is fundamentally committed to social policy work. The second of our two organisational aims shows what we want to achieve:

  • to ensure that individuals do not suffer through lack of knowledge of their rights and responsibilities, or of the services available to them, or through an inability to express their need effectively and, equally
  • to exercise a responsible influence on the development of social policies and services, both locally and nationally.

How does Citizens Advice Scotland create change?

Citizens Advice Scotland, bureaux and our consumer service identify trends in the kinds of problems that people bring to them. Once a problem has been identified as being prevalent, we then investigate why it is causing people hardship or difficulties. For example:

  • Is there something fundamentally wrong with a policy or procedure?
  • Is there something wrong with how the policy or procedure is being implemented?
  • Is there a policy or procedure in place that is being ignored?
  • Is there a policy gap?

Ways we make a difference

Once we work out why the issue is a problem, we can then work out what course of action to take in helping provide a solution to the problem.  Ways we do this include:
  • Telling the media - either setting the agenda or responding to a story that's current
  • Writing and distributing our evidence-based publications
  • Using consultation processes to tell government agencies what our clients experience
  • Using our networks of contacts in other organisations to share what we know and raise awareness of issues
  • Participating in and attending official government and parliamentary working groups
  • Holding meetings with government officials from both the Scottish Goverment and Westminster
  • Meeting and briefing politicians
  • Influencing legislation through briefing and proposing amendments
  • Providing written and oral evidence to government committees
  • Working with our sister organisation in England and Wales, Citizens Advice, on issues reserved to Westminster
  • Local social policy work, where an issue is especially relevant in a particular area

All of our work is based on evidence - evidence that makes a real difference.