Citizens Advice Scotland has published its summary of advice issued for the last financial year.
Advice in Scotland covers the advice sought from the network in the year before the economic impact of Covid-19 became fully apparent, and shows that many households were struggling financially even before then.
Over the period 1 April 2019 – 31 March 2020, the Scottish CAB network delivered advice to over 188,000 individuals, putting a little over £170 million back into people’s pockets during this time. In addition, over 4.1 million unique visits were recorded on our advice website.
The top issue for the network in this period were:
- Social security was the top issue, with a significant growth in Universal Credit cases brought to the network, from 13% of all benefits issues in 2018-19 to 23% in 2019-20;
- Debt was the second biggest issue, with almost 95,000 queries, suggesting many CAB clients were finding the cost of living unsustainable, even before the pandemic;
- Finance and Charitable Support also saw an increase, with advice relating to food banks accounting for 41% of all such advice. This is an increase from 36% in 2018-19.
Publishing the report today, CAS Chief Executive Derek Mitchell said,
"The data in this report is an important reminder that many people in Scotland were struggling with debt and financial problems even before the pandemic hit. Covid has certainly made those problems worse and introduced other challenges too, but the underlying trends that CABs were seeing were already worrying enough, and these haven't gone away. The picture captured in this report is the default position of Scotland's society even without the additional problems brought by covid, and indeed Brexit.
“That's a stark reality that both governments and policymakers need to understand. Their challenge now is not just to mitigate the problems of the pandemic, but those that already existed. To us this shows that there has never been a greater need for sustained investment in frontline advice services.
“But there is also a need for far-reaching policy changes to solve these underlying problems, such as for example an end to the 5 week wait for Universal Credit and action to cut fuel bills."
The full report is available to read here.