What do you know about the CAB? The best advice for free

Most people have heard of the Citizens Advice Bureau or CAB. Some of you may even have gone to them for help. Today I attended a session with a lady from the local CAB where she explained in depth what they do. I thought I knew what this was, but their work is much more wide ranging than I realised. All of their services are provided for free. The CAB really is an amazing and valuable organisation.

Identifying the issues of the day

CABAs well as giving advice to members of the public, the CAB identifies the big issues, researches them and campaigns where there are problems. They can see patterns emerging from their dealings with clients. This puts them in an ideal and possibly unique position to understand the struggles people face. For example, they are currently campaigning to halt the roll out of Universal Credit. They have seen first hand the difficulties these changes are causing to already disadvantaged people. They also successfully put pressure on the government to place a cap on the rate of interest charged by pay day loan companies.

A shocking 72% of the CAB’s clientele live in poverty. They may be on low incomes, be unemployed, disabled or living with a long term health condition.

The biggest subject areas the CAB deals with are, in order:

Benefits and tax credits

Debt

Housing

Employment

Financial services

Relationships

As the lady explained today, these all impact on each other and people seeking advice often present with 3 or 4 different related problems. For example, they lose their job, they have no money and get into debt, then their relationships suffer.

The power of the volunteer

The CAB staff, who are mostly volunteers, do such a great job of helping people that 90% of their clients state they are satisfied; two out of three say their problems are resolved and 4 out of 5 say their lives have been improved by the experience.

The organisation struggles to keep up with the high demand for services. They always need more funding and constantly strive to recruit new volunteers. They have around 21,500 voluntary staff – that’s 77% of the total.

Those who volunteer with the CAB get benefits too. It can help people back into paid employment, give them experience in particular areas (for example, a lot of law students help at the CAB) and allow retired people a chance to use their skills and experience and continue with a challenge when their previous working life is over.

The CAB doesn’t just see people face to face. They have an excellent website for simple advice, as well as web chat and email services.

Helping with debt and money advice

The website has an excellent budgeting tool, as well as an eligibility calculator to help you work out which benefits you might be entitled to (this is down today but you can use this one if it isn’t working). You can take the first steps to working out what help you need and might not need to see an advisor at all. However, if you do require more specialist help you can make an appointment for a face to face meeting.

According to the CAB, one in 11 people in the UK have problem debt. Of these one in four have mental health issues. There is a connection.

Whatever your personal issues, the CAB can help you to find a way to manage your debt, and find a way out of the mire. For example, they can advise how to prioritise which debts to pay first, how to deal with your creditors and how to set up a debt management plan.

They can look at your income and ensure you are claiming all of the benefits you are entitled to, helping you to claim and deal with any issues that arise along the way. If you are facing eviction or rent arrears they can help you keep a roof over your head. They can also give employment advice if you are having problems at work or job seeking.

We are so lucky to have such a service.  All given free of charge by people who don’t have to but want to help anyway.  I am very pleased to know they are there, although I hope I never need their services. I think I am already planning my perfect retirement job!

Have you had any experience with the CAB?

 

14 thoughts on “What do you know about the CAB? The best advice for free

  1. Years ago my daughter had an issue at work and the CAB gave excellent advice which was carried out and solved the problem. I have accompanied other people there and find they are also very good at sign posting the way to get the help you need.

  2. It is almost impossible to access. Phones expensive and unanswered. Queues a mile long two hours before opening, in literally freezing weather (took several days to recover). Many turned away when the doors were finally opened. I was seen but advice was just read off the internet and nothing else provided. Wouldn’t go back. Showed me how law is generally unavailable to the poor.

    • She did say they were terribly under resourced and had to turn people away sometimes. But I know people who had a much better experience so think perhaps you were unlucky?

  3. As Amanda states above, I resorted to CAB many years ago and found their help to be of no use. I knew more than them. The information they gave was outdated and innacurate. A shame as for some people this is automatically where they’re advised to go.
    I found the National Debtline (if this still exists) to be far more knowledgeable and on the ball as regards debt problems.

  4. Hi! I have used CAB for legal advice in the past. Although it was so long ago that I can’t remember the specifics, it is a brilliant resource when you can’t afford to pay for specialist advice. Without pointing any finger of blame at the hardworking volunteers, I would warn that the waiting list for appointments can be long. Even though I live in a large city with several CAB offices, I went to book an appointment recently and was told that the next available slot was 3weeks away which was no use to me at the time. Still, a brilliant charity, and free to use.

  5. There are some amazing people out there doing good, aren’t there!
    I haven’t needed to visit them thankfully, but have heard that they are woefully overwhelmed, which is an indicator of our society as a whole.

    I was absolutely gobsmacked to hear on the news the other day that the government were going ahead with plans to roll out the Universal Credit, despite admitting that 84% of those in the trial areas were in rent arrears because of it! 😮

  6. Years ago (in early 90s and when interest rates were high) both myself and my husband worked in (different) banks in lending teams. A nightmare was when someone with problems would say ‘I’ve been to CAB and they said that you have to…….’ – back then they were, sadly, mainly poorly informed people (little or no training, it seemed) with no grip on reality who would give poor advice and opinions on what lenders would agree to (mostly wildly off track) It is my understanding that they are a much improved place today – which is great 🙂

    • yes, giving debt advice is now a regulated activity and things have improved a lot in the last 25 years!

      The training is now more systematic and advisers have access to a national “expert advice” team if something unusual crops up.

  7. I am a CAB adviser…

    a couple of things I would add:

    – even though many of the clients have little or no money, CAB also provides a great service to people who aren’t in poverty. It is a big mistake to think because you have a good job that you will get better debt advice from a commercial firm. Their offices may be fancy but it’s you who are paying for them… go to CAB and we don’t mind what debt solution you choose, we don’t just mention ones that make us money because we make no money whatever your choice is!

    – every local CAB is an individual charity. many having funding cuts from their local councils 🙁

  8. 11 years ago my daughter and son in law lost their business to the recession and the internet. They went to the CAB for advice, but the only thing they were offered was to go bankrupt. They were trying to avoid it at the time, although in the end they had to. The advisor got quite cross with them and said that if they didn’t want to listen there was nothing else they could do.

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