Newest Review: ... 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 ... more
A great FREE advice service
Citizens Advice Bureau
Member Name: bigh11
Citizens Advice Bureau
Date: 19/05/09, updated on 01/06/09 (184 review reads)
Advantages: Free, Impartial, Local
Disadvantages: Not enough funding
** 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/fac tsheets/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.
Summary: If you need advice on anything, visit CAB!
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