The Citizens Advice service

 
The Citizens Advice service helps people resolve their problems including legal, money, employment, housing and immigration by providing information and advice. 

We are the largest advice-giving network in the UK, with over 3,500 outlets and 21,500 volunteers. Each local Citizens Advice is a separate charity managed by its own trustee board and must meet membership quality standards in order to affiliate to Citizens Advice.

We help people deal with over 7 million problems every year, in bureau, by phone, e-mail and at outreach sessions in places like community centres and libraries.
 
Our clients and volunteers come from all walks of life. We are committed to providing an independent advice service and volunteering opportunities to the whole community.
 
 
Aims and principles
The Citizens Advice service aims:
  • To provide the advice people need for the problems they face.
  • To improve the policies and practices that affect people’s lives.
Our service provides free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to everyone on their rights and responsibilities. It values diversity, promotes equality and challenges discrimination.
 
The following four principles are core to all that we do:
  • Independent - we will always act in the interests of our clients', without influence from any outside bodies. 
  • Impartial - we don't judge our client's or make assumptions about them. Our service is open to everyone and we treat everyone equally. 
  • Confidential - we won't pass on anything a client tells us - or even the fact that they have visited us - without their permission. 
  • Free - no-one has to pay for any part of the service we provide.
 
Our structure
There are approximately 390 local Citizens Advice across England and Wales and we are all registered charities. Citizens Advice itself is also a registered charity, as well as being the membership organisation for local Citizens Advice. Together we make up the Citizens Advice service.

The experience of Citizens Advice gives us a unique insight into the problems facing UK citizens. We have a key role in speaking up for clients, raising issues brought into local Citizens Advice, contributing to public debate and informing legislation.

Citizens Advice collects evidence of clients' problems and uses this to campaign for changes in policies and services. We regularly publish evidence reports and briefings, responses to consultations and parliamentary briefings on a huge range of issues.
 
 
Our reputation - nfpSynergy’s Brand Attributes survey, May 2010
A nationally representative sample of 2,008 adults in Britain was asked to choose the adjectives that they thought described their ‘ideal’ charity. The panel then assessed each of 22 charities, including the Citizens Advice service, against these characteristics.

The other charities involved were: AgeUK, Alzheimer’s Society, Barnado’s, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, British Heart Foundation, Cancerbackup, Cancer Research UK, Childline, Crisis, English Heritage, Girl Guiding UK, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Mencap, National Trust, Oxfam, RNIB, Salvation Army, Shelter, The Scout Association.
 
Key statements that we can make from this research:
  • Out of 22 national charities, the Citizens Advice service is ranked by the general public as being the most helpful, approachable, professional, informative, effective/cost effective, reputable and accountable.
  • 76 per cent of people trust the Citizens Advice service to provide free advice that is truly independent and impartial.
  • Almost half the population describes the Citizens Advice service as helpful and informative. 
  • The Citizens Advice service exceeds the public’s perception of the ‘ideal’ charity in being helpful, professional, informative, reputable and practical.

The Citizens Advice service is a very close match to the public’s ‘ideal’ information services charity.