The Citizens Advice Service in Scotland, which came into being at the outbreak of the Second World War, is being celebrated this week as the charity releases figures showing overall it dealt with more than one million issues for the second year in a row. Since it was created three-quarters of a century ago, enquiries have changed significantly. Bureaux have gone from helping people with evacuation and ration book queries to tackling problems with benefit issues, payday loans and rogue employers. Nonetheless the service remains as valuable and important to communities as ever, and that is being recognised by top Holyrood politicians this week as they take to twitter to say thank you and #iamcitizen.
Citizens Advice Scotland’s analysis of the year 2013/14 also showed that the organisation helped more than 330,000 people, or almost 1 in 13 adults in Scotland over the course of one twelve month period. In that same year, citizens advice bureau clients gained £125 million as a result of the good advice and help they received.
And although issues have changed, the service’s value, ethos and special place at the heart of communities has not. Just like in 1939, the service remains dependant on the good will and dedication of skilled volunteers. In 2013/14, nearly 2500 volunteers donated their time to the CAB, and if they were to receive the average wage for their time, it would cost £10 million a year. Although CAB volunteers are equipped to help with queries as diverse as education and NHS concerns, over 64% of their work was concentrated on helping people with their benefits, tax credits and national insurance or debt.
Citizens Advice Scotland Chief Executive Margaret Lynch commented:
“It’s really gratifying to see the work of Citizens Advice Bureaux celebrated like this. I see day in day out people coming to the Citizens Advice service in Scotland looking for advice, and overall our services advised on over 1 million issues last year. We are able to help people enormously, sometimes simply by signposting them on to the right place, and other times by helping them in times of desperation and crisis. For 75 years we have provided that help and been a port of call in stormy times.
“Our work benefits everybody in Scotland, and for that reason I’m heartened to see leading figures from across the political spectrum recognising that and coming together to say thank you. I’d encourage anyone who wants to congratulate the fantastic work going on daily at their local Citizens Advice Bureau to take two minutes out of their day to say thank you, and maybe tweet a message with the hashtag #iamcitizen.
Jackie Baillie MSP, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Equalities and Welfare said:
“Citizens Advice services are unique in their nature and deserve a big thank you from everybody in Scotland. They are reliant upon volunteers, who help their fellow citizens ensure that their rights are respected and protected. I am very happy to say that #iamcitizen and wish the CAB service all the best for the next 75 years!”
Ruth Davidson MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party added:
“For 75 years, the Citizens Advice Bureau has offered an invaluable advice service that has touched the lives of countless individuals in communities across Scotland. I am personally aware of this because my own mother was actively involved with the Methil CAB for years, and I saw first-hand the tremendously important work it undertook.
“I am delighted to support their #iamcitizen campaign to recognise the valuable contribution that has been made by CAB Scotland’s army of dedicated volunteers and wish them every success for the future.”
Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, added:
“Citizen’s Advice provides an invaluable service to people across Scotland, helping some of our most vulnerable people exercise their rights, work through the problems and seek solutions – often preventing difficult issues spiralling into crisis situations. The staff and volunteers deserve our huge thanks for their hard work and dedication in supporting people seeking advice.”
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
- Editors are invited to send a photographer to the Members’ Lobby of the Scottish Parliament (directly outside the Main Chamber) at 10.25am, on Tuesday 28th October. CAS CEO Margaret Lynch will be joined by Jackie Baillie MSP, Ruth Davidson MSP, Kenny MacAskill MSP and Tavish Scott MSP will all be supporting the campaign at this time with their ‘thank you’ card to Citizens Advice Scotland. They are also available for comment.
- #iamcitizen aims to promote the role and recognise the value of Citizens Advice Services in Scotland while marking our 75th anniversary. To mark all the hours of hard work by volunteers and staff alike, Citizens Advice Scotland is inviting members of the public and politicians to send the service a message. Messages can be sent on twitter using the hashtag #iamcitizen, though we hope that as many politicians as possible will also take the time to stop by Citizens Advice Scotland’s exhibition in The Scottish Parliament (28th – 30th October) and Westminster (6th November) to write out their message on a special card. CAS will also share those messages on social media and send them to the MP or MSP’s local Citizens Advice Bureau.
- More information on the #iamcitizen campaign and the 75th anniversary is available at www.cas.org.uk/75