The Welfare Reform Committee met last week following visits by committee members to citizens advice bureaux across Scotland. The purpose of the visits was to learn about the work of bureaux and what issues clients present with, by listening to their experiences and sitting in on welfare benefit advice sessions.
Members visited D&G CAS, Easterhouse CAB, Hamilton CAB, NACAS, Perth CAB, Stirling & District CAB, and WICAS. The reports back to the committee were highly positive with members praising how ‘professional’, ‘meticulous’ and ‘thorough’ CAB advisers are when supporting clients with benefits applications and appeals. Members saw first-hand the ‘absolutely vital’ role that advisers play in teasing out the reality of a client’s disability or illness to ensure they receive the support they are entitled to.
All recognised the crucial role bureaux play in mitigating the impacts of welfare reform and acknowledged the increasing demands on the CAB service for advice, support and representation.
Concerns were raised about the expectation on those living in remote and rural areas to travel large distances to attend tribunals and appeals despite debilitating conditions.
Comment was also made on how the reality of everyday life for those seeking social security support is often very different from the portrayal made by the media:
“What really hit home to me was the fact that this woman, who works hard in a low-paid job and is looking after her husband, had been given the wrong information, had realised that straight away and wanted to remedy the situation. That is the opposite of what we sometimes see, and it is the opposite of what some of the right-wing media claim that EU nationals do when they come to this country”
These bureau visits are important not only in strengthening the reputation of the CAB Service, but also allow parliamentarians the opportunity to see what the reality is like on the ground for CAB clients, volunteers and staff. Citizens Advice Scotland would like to thank all the bureaux involved.
You can read the full report by clicking on the link below.