Recession-hit Scots are now bringing one new issue to the CAB for every minute of every day, according to new figures published by Citizens Advice Scotland.
The CAS ‘Advice in Scotland’ report catalogues all the cases the Scottish CAB service dealt with in the year 2010/11. It shows a record total of 560,303 issues – that’s an increase of 15,000 (3%) since last year. This is despite the fact that funding for the service is being squeezed.
The biggest increases in CAB workload included debt and welfare cases.
- Debt cases rose by 6%, and now make up 26% of all Scottish CAB cases.
- Issues related to the welfare and benefit system increased by 8% overall.
- Cases involving the controversial Employment & Support Allowance (the benefit payment for those too sick or disabled to work) were up by an astonishing 33%.
Publishing the report, CAS Head of Policy Susan McPhee says,
“This report shows the extent of the challenges facing people in Scotland, and also the vital role the CAB plays in helping them cope.
“Financial advice has always been a big part of what we do, but there has been a huge growth in the numbers of people struggling with debt and low income. Prices are rising all the time – for example fuel bills - and peoples’ incomes are just not keeping up with that, so many of them are turning to loan sharks and payday loans, which of course make their situation even worse. CAB waiting rooms are seeing more people than ever, and we’ve had to increase our numbers of money advisers all round the country.
“The figures in the report tell the bare facts of the story, but of course behind the statistics are real people. Our advisers see the real human face of these problems every day. People are often in tears when they come into the CAB, because they’re at the end of their tether, maybe worried about losing their home for example – and they don’t know where to turn. Many of them are people who are already vulnerable, e.g. pensioners, families on low incomes, or sick and disabled people who are having their benefits cut even further because of the welfare reforms.
“The CAB offers expert advice to anyone who needs it, on any issue, and our advice is free, impartial and confidential. But we are a charity, and so are under constant funding pressure. Our advisers are all overstretched, and our offices in some areas areas are even having to cut back, despite the increasing demand, because they are facing cuts to their funding.
“When you see the figures in this report, you do have to wonder where all these clients would go, and what would happen to them, if the CAB service didn’t exist.”
The report also shows that the Scottish CAB service regained a total of £126million for its clients last year – e.g. in re-claiming lost wages, unclaimed benefits, compensation etc. This means that clients were almost £8 better off for each £1 of funding given to the service.
In a letter sent to MPs and MSPs, accompanying the report, Susan McPhee says,
“What this report doesn’t show is that bureaux continue to do that work on diminishing resources…. It doesn’t show the huge costs saved to society by the preventative work we do. Good independent advice is a preventative service which ultimately saves money and has positive social outcomes. Debt and welfare advice is significantly cheaper than homelessness and bankruptcy, and the social outcomes for clients are far better.
“Which is why independent advice services are essential. In times of need the Scottish bureaux are a trusted source of help. Over coming years, changes to the UK welfare system will have a major impact on Scotland’s people, services, and economy and the demand for advice will increase.
“CAS estimates that total funding in the current financial year for citizens advice bureaux in Scotland will reduce by 9% and we will struggle to maintain current services. We are further concerned that the outlook for 2012/13 could reduce resources further and cause services to be cut or squeezed even further. At a time when thousands of people will need us more than ever.
“With more, we can do more. There will be plenty to do. We hope you will support your local and national Scottish CAB Service.”
For more information, interviews etc. please contact Tony Hutson on 07774 751655.
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
The full ‘Advice in Scotland’ report is attached. Its Executive Summary is included below (Appendix A), as is the text of the full text of Susan McPhee’s letter to Scotland’s MPs and MSPs (Appendix B).
Notes about the Scottish CAB service:
- The Scottish CAB services comprises 61 CAB members across Scotland. Some of these have more than one office, and most have ‘outreach’ services, so that there are in fact over 200 CAB advice points across the country. In addition we offer the Scotland-wide telephone service Citizens Advice Direct.
- Our ‘Advice in Scotland’ report is composed of the annual casework information sent to CAS by each individual CAB, which we use to calculate aggregated statistics which reflects the needs of our clients. The case evidence reported here is anonymous, as all CAB advice is completely confidential, as well as free and independent.
‘Advice in Scotland’ Report – Executive Summary
The Scottish CAB service helped clients to deal with 560,303 new issues in 2010/11 – that’s nearly 15,000 more issues than in 2009/10. This briefing looks into the detail of the issues that clients seek advice upon every day across the country. The main findings in this briefing include:
- The total number of new issues that clients sought advice upon increased by 3% in 2010/11. Areas of advice that increased during this year included tax (16% increase in number of issues), benefits (+8%), legal issues (+7%) and debt (+6%).
- Areas of advice that decreased in number in 2010/11 included consumer goods and services (a reduction of 18% in number of issues) and employment (-10%). This is likely to be due to a reduction in consumer spending resulting in fewer consumer goods problems, while the end of the recession is manifesting in fewer redundancy and dismissal issues.
- Scottish Citizens advice bureaux advised clients on over 203,000 new benefit issues in 2010/11 – an increase of 8%. This includes 64,000 issues concerning disability and sickness benefits which make up one in every nine issues that clients seek advice upon. Bureaux deal with an average of over 1,200 sickness and disability issues each week.
- Bureaux are reporting a significant increase in the assistance they are providing in benefit appeals. In 2010/11, bureaux helped clients to complete over 12,000 welfare tribunal documents and represented clients at 3,312 welfare tribunals (an annual increase of 58%). We estimate that representing clients at welfare tribunals took up around 2,366 working days of adviser time over the year.
- CAS is particularly concerned by the 33% increase in the number of new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) issues that bureaux advised on in 2010/11. Advisers report that ESA issues are time consuming and stressful for both bureaux and clients.
- There was a reduction of 10% in employment issues in 2010/11. This is partly as a result of a relative decline in unemployment, but may also be explained by a reduction in the number of people seeking advice on in-work problems due to the fear of losing their job in a difficult jobs market.
- Client applications to charities for assistance nearly doubled in 2010/11. This may represent a worrying trend in clients requiring extra support, such as food parcels, that is not available in the welfare system.
Susan McPhee’s Letter to MPs and MSPs
Please find here the latest edition of Citizen Advice Scotland’s (CAS) publication Advice in Scotland 2010/11; a comprehensive briefing outlining the issues that citizens advice bureaux advisers dealt with throughout 2010/11.
The headline figures will show that our bureaux across Scotland dealt with a record number of issues – 560,303 new issues. One for every minute of the day. They will show that advisers helped clients with a record 203,000 new benefit issues - an 8% increase on the year before. The report shows our bureaux achieved a financial gain of almost £126 million for clients based on funding of £16.3 million; meaning clients were almost £8 better off for each £1 of funding given to bureaux. It also shows that the CAB volunteers provided more than 18,000 hours of their time each and every week. If they were paid the national wage the cost of the CAB service would be almost £12million.
What this report doesn’t show is that bureaux continue to do that work on diminishing resources. What it doesn’t show is the huge costs saved to society by the preventative work we do. Good independent advice is a preventative service which ultimately saves money and has positive social outcomes. Debt and welfare advice is significantly cheaper than homelessness and bankruptcy and the social outcomes for clients are far better.
Which is why independent advice services are essential. In times of need the Scottish bureaux are a trusted source of help. Over coming years, changes to the UK welfare system will have a major impact on Scotland’s people, services, and economy and the demand for advice will increase.
CAS estimates that total funding in the current financial year for citizens advice bureaux in Scotland will reduce by 9% and we will struggle to maintain current services.
We are further concerned that the outlook for 2012/13 could reduce resources further and cause services to be cut or squeezed even further. At a time when thousands of people will need us more than ever.
With more, we can do more. There will be plenty to do.
We hope you will support your local and national Scottish CAB Service.
If you want to find out more about the citizens advice service in Scotland please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Citizens Advice Scotland