Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies

Citizens Advice generates £50 value for every £1 invested shows new report

Thu Apr 03 09:45:00 BST 2014

Policy-makers should be aware that any avings made by cutting Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) services are likely to result in greater long-term costs incurred by other public services, according to the authors of a new report released today (Thursday 3 April).

 
Two women in discussion

A new IPR policy briefing highlights the social and economic value of CAB services.

 
 

In its latest policy briefing, the Institute for Policy Research (IPR), provides the fullest account ever of the long-term social and economic impact of CAB support.

By analysing services for Bath & North East Somerset (BANES), the research suggests that for every £1 invested, CAB services return £50 in economic and social value. Its findings also reflect the importance of the CAB for vulnerable clients; those dependent on its services but with few or no other sources of help or advice.

Of the 28,500 people who work for the CAB nationwide, 21,500 are volunteers who take on a range of roles from advice to fundraising, admin, campaigning and trusteeship. CAB volunteers also include a number of former professionals able to provide specialist pro-bono advice to clients across different areas.

Latest research from the IPR highlights the range of outcomes which are linked to CAB support, most significantly the alleviation of poverty through income gain, debts managed, homelessness prevented and mental health problems alleviated.

For 80 per cent of clients, it finds, CAB advice has led to positive outcomes.

Report author, Dr Susan Milner from the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies, said: "Our research highlights that CAB advice provides significant social return on investment. On costs in, to costs out, it represents remarkable value for money.

"In the context of austerity, reducing funding and coverage of advice services to save money runs the risk of higher costs to the public purse, as advice plays a vital preventative role. If the coverage of the CAB is reduced, it is likely to limit the ability of individuals to access services up to a point where it is too late to prevent greater – and more expensive – problems occurring."

Commenting on the detailed report ‘Proving Our Value’, on which the policy briefing is based, Ms Tamsin Shuker, Citizens Advice Impact Manager said: "The University of Bath’s ‘Proving Our Value’ report is an important contribution to the evidence on the value of advice services. Providing a rich insight into the complexity of clients’ needs, it demonstrates the value of the service that BANES CAB provides. I am sure this report will attract considerable interest across the sector."

Co-author Professor Nicholas Abercrombie, visiting Professor in the Department of Social & Policy Sciences, added: "Within the CAB-BANES area, 60 per cent of clients have an income below the poverty line and 36 per cent have disabilities or long-term health issues. A significant number of clients also had physical or mental health problems that were exacerbated by the personal or financial challenges about which they had sought advice.

"Clients reported improved health and wellbeing as a result of the CAB. Our study was able to confirm the link between the advice given and improved health and wellbeing."

Through their research the study authors, who included Peter Cressey, Michelle Farr and Beth Jaynes also from the Department of Social and Policy Sciences, suggest that the CAB is seen as a reliable, trusted brand and this is related to its universal, open access.

Chair of the Trustees for CAB Bath & North East Somerset, Richard Samuel said: "We welcome this important report as it confirms the vital role in the community performed by the Citizens Advice Bureau and the fantastic value for money our service provides."

A copy of the IPR Policy Brief ‘Proving the value of advice: a study of the impact of Citizens Advice Bureau services’ can be accessed online.