Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau - our principles

The Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau Service is guided by 13 principles:

1. A free service  

Bureaux provide information, advice and assistance, including representation, free of charge. They do not withhold their services from any clients seeking help because they are believed to be able to pay for help from an alternative source. The service is advertised to the public as being free of charge to ensure that members of the public are not discouraged from taking advantage of the service for fear of incurring expense.

2. Confidentiality

Bureaux provide confidentiality to clients. Nothing learned from clients, including the fact of their visits, will be passed on to anyone outside the Citizens Advice Bureau service without the express permission of the client. Although it is a function of the Citizens Advice Bureau Service to exercise a responsible influence on the development of social policies concerning matters which have been brought to light in the course of assisting clients, no details will be made public which might enable clients to be identified without their express consent.

3. Impartiality

The service provided by bureaux is impartial, it is open to all, and is regardless of any subjective opinion as to whether or not the client is deserving. Citizens Advice Bureau advisers are trained to provide information solely on the basis of its potential usefulness to the client, i.e. information will not be selected to conform to any particular point of view. Representations made on behalf of clients will faithfully attempt to express the client’s personal intentions and points of view.

4. Independence

The service provided by bureaux is completely independent. The policies and practices of the service are decided solely by the member bureaux. No other individual agency or individual, even if they are giving financial support or other aid to bureaux, will influence the decision making process of Citizens Advice Bureaux.

5. Accessibility

Bureaux aim to make their services accessible to all by using premises which are centrally located, easy to enter, welcoming in appearance and open at times suited to local demand. Each bureau will actively recruit a range of volunteers from the local community who are capable of gaining the confidence of Citizens Advice Bureau clients. Bureaux will publicise the services they offer, especially in areas and among groups where the service is apparently underused. Bureaux will seek to extend services to meet the needs of those for whom the service is not presently accessible.

6. Effectiveness

Bureaux judge the effectiveness of their activities by the extent to which they meet clients’ needs. This is measured by the extent to which clients are helped to clarify problems and concerns, the accuracy and completeness of any information provided, the usefulness of any advice given and the appropriateness of any assistance provided to enable clients to carry out the course of action chosen. An effective service depends on efficient management and administrative practices and particularly on the way in which bureaux make use of their most valuable resource, their volunteers.

7. Community accountability  

The Scottish Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux is an association of autonomous member bureaux, each democratically accountable to the community they serve. A bureau’s autonomy is only qualified by the conditions it must accept to retain membership of the Association.

A bureau’s committee of management should include people elected by the local public at its Annual General Meeting or nominated by relevant local bodies giving financial support, organisations working in related fields and bodies representing potential clients.

8. Client’s right to decide

The service recognises that those who come to Citizens Advice Bureaux have a right to set their own objectives and to decide whether or not to accept the advice and assistance offered to them. The service seeks to avoid making assumptions about its clients' objectives and identifies all the options available to the client and presents these options fairly so that the client can make a decision without any pressure.

9. A voluntary service

The service operates on the principle that first and foremost it is a voluntary service of advice and assistance provided by individuals serving their communities in a formal, unpaid capacity. It is also an essential complement to advice from statutory and other agencies. Citizens Advice Scotland advocates the employment of paid staff in member bureaux in order to maximise the contribution and effectiveness of the volunteers.

10. Empowerment

Bureaux seek to assist clients to help themselves. Bureaux help clients to understand their situation, to decide which course of action to adopt and to take steps themselves to tackle their problems. Bureaux aim to ensure that each client has the experience and satisfaction of self help.

11. Information retrieval

The Citizens Advice Bureau Service seeks to use the evidence collected through experience in dealing with enquiries to exercise a responsible influence on the development of social policies and services both locally and nationally. In gathering such evidence, bureaux will respect the client’s right to confidentiality.

12. A generalist service

Bureaux provide information, advice and assistance on any topic; no one calling at a Citizens Advice Bureau will be turned away because it does not deal with that type of problem. Because bureaux provide a generalist service, they can deal successfully with problems or groups of related problems that do not completely fit within the field of a single, specialist source of help. Where bureaux do not supplement this generalist service with appropriate specialisms, clients will be put in touch with specialists as required and where possible.

13. Brand Protection

Bureaux have systems and policies in place to ensure the protection of the Citizens Advice Network reputation, trust, loss of funding, data security and to prevent third parties from using its intellectual property without permission.

Equality of opportunity

The Citizens Advice Bureau Service believes that no job applicant, worker, volunteer, or client should receive less favourable treatment than another on grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, or sexual orientation.  There is no situation in which the Citizens Advice Bureau Service will discriminate unfairly. 

In addition to our moral responsibility we recognise our obligation under equalities legislation and will work to comply with the guidance issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.