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CAB Chiefs Meet to Discuss Impact of Recession on Scotland

NB Embargo: 0001 on Wednesday 1st September 2010

Over 300 advisers from Scotland’s 83 Citizens Advice Bureaux are meeting today (Wednesday) in Edinburgh for the start of their annual conference, against a background of higher demand for advice than ever – due to the impact of the recession.

Senior figures from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) will tell delegates today that Scots will be worse affected by the recession than the rest of the UK, and that the advice sector faces a huge challenge of delivering more advice for less resources. They will also reveal that the average debt level among Scottish CAB clients is now over £20,000 – an increase of 50% over the last five years.

CAS Acting Chief Executive Susan McPhee will say in her speech to the conference today,

“Our first aim is about empowering citizens through the advice we give them. And people need our help more than ever. Last year, Scottish CABs helped over 270,000 clients deal with nearly half a million new problems. That’s more than 1250 NEW problems brought to a Scottish CAB every day of the year.

“Yet the last two years have already put a significant strain on our resources as clients lost their jobs and struggled to stay in their homes in the recession.

“Thousands of clients have come to the CAB for advice after being made redundant without notice, redundancy pay, or the wages they were due. The banks – the actions of whom many would argue helped caused the recession – showed little apparent sympathy for their customers’ financial trouble by continuing to charge unfair and disproportionate overdraft charges. The amount of personal debt held by the average CAB debt client rose to over £20,000 – an increase of over 50% in just five years.

“As a country, we may slowly be emerging out of the recession, but the problems caused by the economic downturn will continue to affect many of the most vulnerable in society for years to come. And just at a time when bureaux will experience an even greater demand for our services, our resources provided both by government and local authorities are going to reduce.

“Yet without arguing over the need for budget cuts, it seems to me that the cuts are going to impact most on those least able to afford them – and that Scotland is going to be hit harder than the rest of the UK.”

The conference takes place today and tomorrow (1st and 2nd September) at Heriot Watt University, Riccarton, Edinburgh.

The next Chief Executive of CAS, Lucy McTernan, will attend the conference on Thursday and make a brief speech (though she won’t take up her post until mid November).

For more information, interviews etc contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010 or 07774 751 655
(NB please use the mobile during the conference itself)

The conference agenda is given below.


Wednesday 1st September, 2010
09.00 Registration opens
09.00 – 10.00 Refreshments
10.00 – 10.10 Welcome and housekeeping
10.10 – 10.15 Video message from Martin Lewis,
10.15 – 10.40 Opening Address by Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland Business Editor
10.40 – 11.05 Refreshments
11.05 – 12.35 Breakout sessions:

1. change is the only constant – tackling Scotland’s debt problems (repeated Wednesday pm)
2. try a little tenderness (advice on tendering)
3. social return on investment (SROI) – what’s the use?
4. housing evictions – the last resort?
5. retaining volunteers in the CAB service
6. “there’s a leaflet for that….” – different ways oif helping clients and ‘referring on’

12.20 – 13.30 Lunch
13.30 – 13.40 Address by Acting CEO of CAS, Susan McPhee
13.40 – 14.10 Entertainment
14.10 – 15.40 Breakout sessions:

1. change is the only constant – tackling Scotland’s debt problems (repeat of Wednesday am session)
2. Social Return on Investment (SROI) – next steps and practicalities
3. data protection – dispelling the myths and breaking the barriers (repeated Thursday)
4. welfare reform – carrots and sticks
5. understanding emotional conflict
6. “I don’t read so well” – working with easily excluded clients

15.40 – 16.05 Refreshments
16.05 – 17.05 Networking for Novices
19.30 – 21.00 Conference Dinner
21.00 – 21.20 After dinner speaker – Alistair Grimes, Rocket Science Director and winner of CAS Conference 2009 Balloon Debate
21.20 – 01.00 Conference entertainment

Thursday 2nd September 2010
09.00 Registration
09.00 – 10.00 Refreshments
10.00 – 10.05 Welcome
10.05 – 10.10 Group photo
10.10 – 10.25 Address by Dominic Notarangelo, Chair, Citizens Advice Scotland
10.25 – 10.30 Speech by next CEO of CAS, Lucy McTernan
10.25 – 10.40 Long Service Awards
10.40 – 11.10 Plenary speech by Otto Thoresen, CEO AEGON UK
11.10 – 11.35 Refreshments
11.40 – 13.05 Breakout sessions

1. the Devil is in the detail – support with employment and social security issues
2. delivering a better service
3. data protection – dispelling the myths and breaking the barriers (repeat of Wed pm session)
4. young people in the recession
5. moving forward after unemployment
6. human rights in the interview room (not in the court room)

12.50 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 - 14.15 Plenary speech by Councillor Pat Watters, CBE, President of COSLA
14.15 – 15.15 Closing plenary session (Something special)
15.15 – 15.30 Close of conference