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I feel I have to write about a really bad experience at Banbury CAB, in 2009.
In May 2009, I was suspended from my job for an alleged breach of data protection, and was pretty much told that I would lose my job.
I went to the CAB BANBURY, and the advisor was awful: he just listened to what he wanted to hear without listening to the whole story, and the minute he heard the name of my employer, he made up his mind..though he didn't say it, you could see on the look on his face that he thought I was ******
Overall, he was an insensitive bully, who failed to keep an open mind, without hearing the whole story and jumped to his conclusion the minute he heard the employer's name.
All this may have been by the by if I had lost my job, but it turned out that I had done nothing wrong, and in fact had all diciplinary action overturned by my employer following an internal appeal hearing, where it was categorically shown I had done nothing wrong.
The CAB is a good idea in principal, but beware, they are mainly volunteers, and as with any voluntary body, volunteers are either really good...or really really bad...the advisor should not have been in that job, even if it was an unpaid voluntary position...be warned...
I went to Addlestone CAB for some advice on a point of law regarding a ESA appeal. I had a appointment with a advisor named Rachel. From the moment I met her I found her manner to be quite aggressive. She was toatally unemphatic and spoke over me continuously. I left with another appointment for 2 weeks later (today)
so she could fill in a DLA form for me which I have already applied for and failed and the point of law that I went to them about was not even addressed!
I have had to cancel my appointment today due to the fact that I am disabled and the transport that I was relying on let me down. On the 5th attempt (kept going on answer phone saying they was closed) it was answered by a guy that was so damned rude! After explaining he came back on and asked where I was and that I should keep the appointment as rachel was there. He clearly had no interest in the reason that I gave him! Then he reluctantly agreed to reschedule my appointment for nxt week telling me that I do need to 'keep it though'!! I told him that I did not take kindly to his tone of voice and that I thought they was all about helping people in need. I am not the sort of person to cancel appointments willy nilly and I fully appreciate that the service is mainly run by volunteers having been a volunteer for many years!! I told him not to bother.....I will go somewhere else!
I have a mixture of good and bad experience of CAB. And most notably I worked as trainee volunteer advisor.
As user experience:
My first experience of CAB is nearly 15 years ago. They gave me invaluable advice and helped me to equip how to sort out my problem. I spent only one visit for this. I didn't have to wait so long.
But time has changed. Last year, I tried to use CAB service again. Firstly, phone line was almost always engaged and couldn't get through at all. I attempted several times a week, but in the end gave up and visited local office. There were large number of people already waiting outside. And I waited another good one hour after opening office. I realised time has changed. Majority of people were foreigners (asylum seekers or whatever) who rarely speak English with screaming children. It was depressing place. Finally, my time had come. But I was told, they cannot help my problem as it is beyond their remit. I wish I could know this before spending my entire afternoon.
My short work experience at CAB:
CAB offices are run by mostly volunteers including advisers, receptionists and administrators. And they are not paid at all. Normally, if you want to become adviser, you must complete two years training and must come to work 2 full days a week during that time. And I sincerely admire their commitment and hard work.
Of course there are paid staffs - usually, they are called managers ( one or two per office.) And each office operates quite differently by their management style. I met total 3 managers in one of West London CAB; two of them were eccentric, dictatorial, hostile, and extremely disorganised. They bullied newly recruited volunteers, complained we didn't do work well (well, we weren't given any training yet at that time but told us to take calls and deal with people without any knowledge). They said, this is "on the job training" - but this sounds like to me, just an excuse not to make proper training plan and materialise time and effort. I did volunteering in the past for 3 other big charities and this was definitely the worst. It isn't really training. Volunteers are left to learn by themselves. To given other example, it has taken over 3 years to process my volunteer application. I had heard nothing from them though I chased them number of times.
So when I heard from them last year, I was shocked. Then I met these managers. They said, "drop out" rate is high. Last year, they recruited nearly 30, within 6 month, it went down to 8!. I though it must have been really tough training - well it is. I cannot see much care towards newly recruited volunteers.
Having said that, I could clearly see CAB operations are over stretched by large number of users. Britain has been changing for the last 10 years. More and more people have flooded into this country which changes society and so as CAB users. CAB is largely relied on funding from government and other limited source. Wonder how long they can cope with current system.
Though my work experience at one West London CAB office was awful, I must stress that there are many great volunteers who are completely dedicated to their work, selflessly trying to help people without any return. (How many of us can do such thing?)
I recently had an issue with one of my bills. I had paid it up to date, but the company said they hadn't received the payment, yet the money from the cheque I had sent them, had left my account. It was quite a large amount so I felt quite nervous about it. I had contacted this company and told them, but they insisted it had not been paid, even when I sent them proof that I sent them the payment.
In the end my mum suggested contacting citizens advice to see if they could help me as I was getting quite stressed about it.
I first tried to phone them but couldn't get through during their opening times. I tried everyday for a week and had to luck, it was just constantly engaged. Then I looked them online and found that you can send them an email, so that is what I did.
I explained my problem and asked if they could help me. I received a reply within about 4 working days and was asked to go for an appointment the following week to meet an advisor.
I attended the meeting and the advisor was very nice. She asked me a few things and needed my details. I explained my problem and she told me that I didn't need to worry, CAB would help to sort it out. I left my proof of payment with her and she said she would be in touch.
Now I'm not going to say this issue was worked out over night, nor was it easy, but they get it sorted. It did take quite a few phone calls and letters, but in the end the company relented and agreed to let it go. How they could say that when I had paid them I will never know and I am still furious with them. They were asked for an apology but I never got one.
CAB were great, they reassured me and helped me to sort out something I could never have dealt with on my own, and it's a completely free service. I don't think enough people know about CAB and what they do and would like to thank them (if anyone from CAB ever reads these reviews) for helping me out.
I wasn't sure if they would be able to help me but they did, they put my mind at ease and never made me feel stupid for not sorting it out myself. They never turn anyone away, and can refer you to other free services that might be able to help.
The Citizens Advice Bureau is the ideal place to go if you need to get advice on a wide range of both legal and financial matters especially when it comes to establishing just what you rights are. They can provide advice on benefits and the like and can also help people complete application forms for benefits or other complicated forms that Governments like to design.
CAB offices are often located in the centres of town or attached to other local government buildings however they are not government controlled rather they are staffed by a mixture of volunteers and paid professionals and usually operate on a drop in policy with appointments possible after an initial assessment.
On the odd occasion I have needed their asistance I have always found the staff to be helpful and a friend who got into really bad debt a couple of years ago found the excellent at helping to both organise and also negotiate repayment terms with the credit card companies that meant that they did not have any bad debt registered against them.
The service they provide is very valuable indeed and if you have money problems they are well worth a visit.
** Updated 1st June to add my personal experience of CAB **
CAB has been established since 1939, by 1942 there was 1074 bureaux opened, all run by volunteers. By the 1960's the number of bureaux had dropped to 416. In 1999 www.adviceguide.org.uk was launched and by 2003 the website was available in 6 different languages.
Citizens Advice is 70 years old this year. (2009)
** This information is from http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/aboutus/factsheets/ourhistory.htm
WHAT CAB OFFER:
CAB offers FREE, IMPARTIAL, INDEPENDENT and CONFIDENTIAL advice to anybody that needs it, regardless of age, sex, race, disability, religion etc.
CAB is not associated with anybody, not even the government or local authority, so any information they give you is purely factual and is not biased in anyway.
They will never disclose your details (they won't even tell anybody you've actually visited) to anybody without your explicit permission.
HOW IT WORKS:
Generally CAB is a drop in centre, appointments aren't generally made, it depends on your Bureau and their resources. You can also contact some by phone. You must check the opening time of your local CAB because they are generally not open everyday.
Sometimes there can be a long wait once you get there, CAB is very busy and you just never know how long each interview is going to last, so patience is a must.
CAB is run by paid staff and volunteers. Everybody receives the same thorough training and nobody is allowed to advise unsupervised unless they are deemed fully competent by their supervisor.
A misconception of CAB is that the advisors know everything. They don't. They have very good resources and a "website" where all the information is kept. It is impossible for the advisors to know everything because the law changes so fast. With this in mind, sometimes the advisor may leave you alone for some time to find the information for you and to consult a supervisor if necessary. Advisors will always try to keep waiting times (before and during the interview) to an absolute minimum but sometimes if the information you require is quite in depth or technical, it can take a little while. If you have been kept waiting a while and you don't feel you can wait any longer, please let somebody know so the advisor doesn't spend a lot of time researching for nothing :)
This "website" that advisors use is not available to the general public although CAB do have a website where you can get general information - www.adviceguide.org.uk - you might ask why do people not just use this website instead of visiting the CAB offices. Well for one thing this website can only give general information, whereas in the office we can give specific information and we can also contact companies for you if necessary.
Another misconception is that CAB tell you how to solve your problems, well in one sense that is true but they never take the decision making process out of your hands. CAB simply tell you what your options are, tell you the pro's and cons of each option and then let you make your own mind up. Once you've decided on a course of action, CAB will help in anyway that they can. (E.G. send letters, ring somebody etc)
CAB covers a lot of different subjects including Housing, Employment, Family Matters and the two mains ones - Debt and Benefits. This list is not exhaustive though, if you have a problem that you feel does not fall into one of those categories, CAB will still be able to help in some way.
If CAB cannot help you (if you need a solicitor or a counsellor) or you need specialist help, CAB may refer you to another agency/company, they will always explain any costs that may be involved and of course it's always your choice to take up the referral.
I'm sorry I didn't add this in the original review, I forget sometimes that people aren't just looking for factual information, obviously forgot big time with this review!
I visited CAB about 9 months ago because I was having a lot of trouble with debt, I won't say exactly how much we have but it's more than my partner (as the "breadwinner") earns in a year, which is really scary. I had lost my job because I was ill and we were really struggling. I've known about CAB for years, my mum and other members of the family have used them quite a few times. So I went down one morning, I got there early because I know how long you have to wait sometimes. Luckily because I had got there quite early I was waiting less than an hour. I was seen by a lovely man, he really put me at ease. He explained how CAB works and about confidentiality, he told me my details would be kept on computer and checked if that was okay with me. I explained my situation and I could tell he was really listening to what I had to say, he wasn't taking notes all the time although he did take some notes towards the end, I didn't mind him taking notes, obviously he wouldn't have been able to remember everything off the top of his head but I was glad he didn't sit there writing the whole way through. I was getting quite upset at one point because I just didn't see how we were ever going to manage and we'd already missed payments on some things, he was so kind to me but not in a patronising way, he really reassured me that I could do something to make the situation better. He went into a lot of detail regarding my debt, incoming/outgoing, any assets we had etc. He said he had to go away to do some research and he'd be gone about 20 minutes. When he came back he explained what I could do, he suggested contacting the creditors and offering token payments for the time being, I could make an appointment with CAB's debt advisor or I could contact one of the debt charities like CCCS or Payplan. I wanted to see their debt advisor but the waiting time was 6 weeks and I didn't really want to leave it so long before getting some more advice so I asked for more details about the debt charities. I ended up contacting CCCS who were great and set up a DMP with them.
The Citizens Advice Bureau are an organisation (in fact a charity, I think) that members of the public can go to when they have a query about something that they cannot find the information for, or, as suggested in the name, when they need some advice.
They can help with all sorts of queries, including money matters, legal advice, consumer problems, and more.
There seem to be bureaux in most towns and cities and they keep good opneing hours such that people who work from Monday to Friday 9-5 can still visit them. Some of the bureaux also have a telephone number which you can call to ask for some advice.
When you go in, they ask you to fill out a New or Existing Client Form. On this form you give some basic details about yourself including your name, address and date of birth, and what your query is about. I have never asked if I could not give them my name but I think that they keep the date under the Data Protection Act and would not use it or sell it.
The CAB, as it is often known, is staffed by volunteers. These volunteers are given, I have been led to believe, a comprehensive period of training both before and during their work with the CAB. I have found the advisors that I have dealt with to be almost entirely friendly and helpful.
The CAB can get very busy and I have on one occassion waited over an hour to be seen. The advisors recommend that appointments are not more than 45 minutes, but in practive I have found that they do not kick people out. Whilst this may leave other people waiting, it is nice to not feel that you are bing rushed out when perhaps you haven't gleaned all the information you need.
The CAB do make advance appointments in some places. I think these vary depending on the advisors that they have available and what the advisores know the most about. It could be worth asking for an advance appointment if you are short of time.
When you get seen, the advisor will take you into a private room where you can talk in confidence. The advisor will ask you to explain what your query is and will ask you questions to clarify the main points. The stetting is very informal and sometimes you get offered a cup of coffee or tea!
In each of the private rooms there is a desk and a computer and that's about it. The advisor will often look up points on the computer, especially with legal queries and they sometimes use the internet. If the advisors themselves need advice, they will speak to their colleagues. This can take a while and I have been ledft for about fifteen minutes in the past.
I think that the strengths of the CAB are that the people are volunteers, so they seem to be very willing to help. They have been through a lot of training and they treat you well and the information that you provide is confidential. It can be nice to talk to someone about things with the hope of them getting resolved, especially if they are legal queries or money matters.
On the other hand, the tools that the advisors use are usually available to people at home, and if you can search the internet then you are likely to be able to find the same information. This doesn't mean that the advice, service, and specialist knowledge is not worth going for- it is!
I recommend the CAB!
The Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB) is a brilliant concept, os totally free, usually accessible in towns & cities otherwise can be contacted by telephone or the internet.
It's advisable to try & get some independent advice before paying out hard-earned cash for solicitors etc or be given wrong advice by others.
They can deal with many varied queries such as benefit entitlement, employment issues, rent/tenancy agreements etc as well as giving information on leisure passes, bus passes, local events, health centres etc.
Their biggest growth area seems to be those seeking advice regarding debt issues (according to Radio 4's 'You & Yours') & is recommended by Martin Lewis as a possible first port of call.
The offices are well equipped with all types of leaflets from knowing your rights, how to claim money for school uniforms to local hobby/horticultural groups & organisations etc so it's well worth a visit.
It is a place where experts can help many ages - from toddlers (playgroups) to our older generation (activities, heating allowances, bus passes) etc.
I worked in a CAB when I was a student & all the staff were voluntary workers (not sure how it is now) & can definitely say that each person who came for advice or information was treated in a polite, professional & friendly manner. If a specialist's help was required they were either contacted on behalf of the person or directed to the appropriaite agency who could help on a more specific level.
It's a great place to work as everyone's needs & requests were so diverse & you never knew what the next query would be. It could also be stressful though at times because some visitors were desperate for help & became frustrated at the long waiting period that was inevitable on some days.
It is possible sometimes to get an appointment so it's worth asking otherwise be prepared to wait. Also, check the opening & closing times of the local CAB as these can vary according to area.
In my opinion this is an excellent service which is often inder -rated & is poorly funded - I wish the government would transfer some £ from the Olympic Fund to organisations like the CAB as I think this would be a far better investment.
- free confidential advice available from friendly staff.
- opening hours vary.
- if they can't help they can direct you in the right direction.
- may involve a lot of waiting around - but usually well worth it!
The Citizens Advice Bureau is a great place to go if you need independent advice on any legal or financial matters, they are located in pretty much every town in the country and are often in the centre of town although not on the high street but in lower rent areas.
I have used them couple of times once when I had an employment problem and that wasgreat because I actualy got to see a solicitor free of charge who attends on two mornings a week and you were able to actually book a time with them, first you had to provide a written outline of your issue so that your problem could be vetted to ensure it was something they could help with otherwise it would be referred to a normal member of staff. This is a good idea as the solicitors time is valuable and the bureau want to make maximum use of it.
For other issues you usually have to drop in between certain hours and wait your turn and for this we did have to wait for at least 90 minutes however they gave us some good advice over a financial matter involving the council and the advice was easy to understand and without any bias.
Overall CAB is a great service, I imagine it does depend on who you see and their experience and knowledge and you do have to be prepared to wait however with the current large number of people who are unable to manage their finances and get into trouble with debt CAB is likely to get ever busier in providing a valuable service.
The Citizen's Advice Bureau is a service which is very much in demand. It provides information on legal and rights matters free of charge.
Much of their time is spent helping people to deal with legal cases including family matters, court cases, housing and things of that nature.
Most staff are volunteers with a basic training but no specific expertise unless they have previously worked in those areas.
Our local branch has a visiting solicitor who will give legal advice if you make an appointment to see him/her.
The system for giving help seems to be a little bit strange. You have to drop in between set hours and sit and wait which if fine as there are many people in need of help.
The only time I ever went there for free advice I came away after 6 hours without seeing anyone.
I was quite upset because I waited all morning and then was told to come back in the afternoon and wait again, so I did.
Each time I though I was next in line other people were taken straight through to the advisor's office as they walked in. I enquired and was told that these people had appointments.
That struck me as odd because I was told I couldn't have an appointment and I would need to wait.
So, the system did not work for me. There is a phone advice service but I was unable to speak to anyone after trying for three weeks.
Some branches will give advice via email but the one near me doesn't.
I am aware that this free service is heavily used and doesn't have the capacity to cope with the numbers of people needing help, but I wasted so much time trying to get help that I had to give up and pay for legal advice on a consumer matter.
Yes, they do a good job if you are lucky enough to be seen before you get fed up with waiting, but you'll need lots of time to spare and a great deal of patience.
The Citizens Advice Bureau is an excellent service and it has helped me out of a few scrapes. However, I think it could be improved...
Yesterday I sat in the waiting room of my girlfriend's local Citizens Advice Bureau for nearly an hour before I got fed up and walked out. I understand it is an 'in demand' service so I expect to have to wait my turn and therefore I was not too narked, just a little irritated at having wasted my time. Today, I am back in my home town and visited my own branch - not open on Wednesdays. Instead a telephone advice line operates between 10am and 3pm....... or does it? I have been trying to get an answer for several hours now, and the clock is coolly cruising towards 3pm. My hopes are not high.
I am not here to moan about the service, nor am I here to relate to you what I've been doing with my week. No sir! It is just that it occurred to me earlier that although the CAB website is very nice looking and easy to navigate, with useful FAQ sections and links etc I feel it would be greatly improved by having a LIVE HELP option, where you can have your question dealt with immediately online by talking directly to an operator via your keyboard. Other sites do this to great success (TAXBACK.COM's version has proved very useful to me in the past). Of course, this too would sometimes require you to wait your turn, but it would give the public another option making life a little more flexible and easier for us. It is also far more convenient to open a pop-up window and have it alert you when an operator is available than it is to keep picking up the phone and letting it ring and ring just to get an answer phone (my local CAB don't even put you on hold, you just have to call repeatedly), or sending off an email, not knowing when or if it will ever be answered.
In the past, when I have used the CAB service I have always been impressed with the information, advice and help that I have received, so I certainly do not want to criticize them. I merely wish the waiting times could be cut down a little, and if another option was added it would spread the load a little, and hopefully save people time. Plus, the email option does not work very well, as a conversation is normally needed rather than: Question. Response. Sorted.
I understand these things cost money and after all the service is free to use, so I guess it may be funding that is the problem here. But it would be nice to see if it ever comes about.
CITIZENS ADVICE BUREAUX
The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is a registered charity which has offices in more than 3,000 locations throughout the UK, so there should be one in your nearest town. You can check on their website for locations www.citizensadvice.org.uk
The CAB relies on volunteers to help advise people with their problems, as their staff deal with in excess of five million problems from the public every year.
I first became aware of the CAB several years ago when a friend started training as a volunteer. Until then I thought the CAB was a place where you went if you needed help if you were poor or disadvantaged, I didnt think I would ever need to visit them.
However, when a neighbour starting causing me problems I went to the CAB and they advised me what to do. More recently I have used their services again with an employment issue.
They publish a number of factsheets which you can pick up from their offices, or you can check online. You may want to speak to someone, so the best thing to do is to either telephone or call in person at one of the offices. They will probably offer you an initial ten minute advice session, but you might have to sit in the waiting room for a while to see an advisor or you may be asked to make an appointment for another day.
Dont let this put you off, the CAB are there to help and because so many people need their services they are understaffed, but they will do all they can to advise you, even if you cant be seen immediately.
The most common problems dealt with by the CAB are to do with Benefits, Debt, Employment, Housing and Legal problems. They will first of all either discuss your problem with you by telephone or face to face and then you may need a further appointment.
They will explain your rights and help you negotiate about your problems. They may write letters on your behalf or make phone calls, they will help you complete forms and they will also represent you at court or at tribunals. If they are unable to help you they will tell you about other agencies who can help.
When I was ill and needed help with my employment situation the CAB helped with this. This was most helpful as I didnt feel able to cope with officialdom on my own when I was ill, but the CAB advisor was a tremendous help and even went along with me to a tribunal to represent me. This was a great relief as otherwise I would probably have just struggled alone. When you are ill you often need someone to fight your battles for you, so if you feel unable to cope, for whatever reason, then contact them.
For people who are in debt the CAB will help them draw up a list of priorities when it comes to budgeting and if the debts are spiralling out of control they will advise how to sort things out. For example, they will write letters on your behalf to creditors explaining the situation and suggesting payments which you can afford.
If anyone has a problem or query with employment the CAB will advise, they can help with pension queries, housing problems, council tax, child support, divorce, employment issues, redundancies etc.
In fact, if you need advice on anything, then contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or look on their website. They are there to help anyone who needs them and I am certainly glad I contacted them.
Their advice is free, there is no charge whatsoever. Their advisors are impartial and will always do their best to help you, and whatever you tell them is confidential.
I went along to The Citizens Advice Bureau as a friend of mine had recommended them to me. I applied for a loan to consolidate my debts as I have payments coming out and just wanted one. I am left with no disposible income at the end of the month and it is very depressing considering I have 3 jobs to try and help me alone. I'm still not getting anywhere. The only alternative I could see was to try CAB as they can negotiate with your creditors on your behalf to try and change your contract i.e. freeze interest, increase term etc.... I had to draw up a budget planner to show a Money Advisor what my money expenditure was. The worst off you are the more chance you have of them helping you. It was clear I was struggling but they said that it is best to carry on that was because I am meeting the payments each month. If I wasn't then that also stays in your favour. The advisor said that there wasn't much point ruining a ok credit rating as it will have an effect on my future i.e. obtaining a mortgage for example. (I know this as I work in the industry). It is a method used in worse case senerios. The Charity negotiates with creditors as if you are unable to pay and the procedures for negiotating new terms are as if you are going to court! Sounds serious. I think I'll just plod along without a new pair of shoes for a while. I'll manage, with three jobs I won't have time to wear them in anyway!!!!
Every now and then something comes along that you don't know how to deal with - perhaps your knowledge of the law and your rights isn't sufficient, perhaps you don't know where to find a solicitor, you need help to striahgten out your finances, you've had a problem with a company - something of that nature happens to most of us from time to time. The trouble is knowing where to turn to - what redress do you have against a company who haven't treated you well? What can you do if your debts are out of control? The Citizens advice bureau is a source of helpful advice and invaluable contacts. in case of difficulties, they are an excellent forst port of call. If your question is simple - you want a phone number, a list of solicitors, something like that then give them a call or drop in to your local cab, and what you need can be provided in minutes. if you have a long and more complex problem, its better to go in and see one. it is possible to book appointemnts, but you have to get in early, otherwise you just have to go along and wait for someone to see you. Be prepaired for a lnog wait - hours if it is busy. take a book. they will have a waiting room for you to sit in, but it can take a long while for you to be seen. Sometimes people will start queueing outside even before they open. When you get to see someone, they will see you in a private room, and you can talk to them in confidence - that's part of their remit. They will then offer advice, tell you where you can go for more help, what you are entitled to etc. If you are having difficulties, they are so good to talk to - eager to assist, reassuring, and well informed. if they can't hep you out, they can at least point you in the right direction. CAB staff do take on long term clients - not being one, I don't really know how this works, but they can offer a lot of support and help. I have bee to the CAB for advice and information on severa
l occasions, and have found them very useful. I had the problem that I had been working for someone who had got into trouble with the police (nothing to do with my work) his computers were seized, but my work was on them and I needed it back. The CAB advised me as to what the police could do with seized goods, and told me who I should write to to try and chivey things along. So, if something goes awry in your life and you don't know where to start fixing it, go to the CAB and they will tell you how to get started, who can help you, what financial aid you are entitled to and the like. Easy to use, free, reliable anda great service.