Introduction from the Chair of Citizens Advice
One of the things people working in bureaux say most often about the work is that they love the unpredictability, not knowing what the next enquiry will be, and also the sense of making a positive difference to people’s lives.
For Citizens Advice staff and trustees the sense of making a positive difference to people’s lives is also very important, but the unpredictable is usually less welcome, and we try to avoid it as far as possible. A few years ago we heard that our principal grant was to be reduced. Since then, we have worked hard to reshape the organisation and live within our new budget while minimising the impact of the changes on bureaux. We are now coming to the end of that process and I believe that we have achieved what we set out to do, and have become more efficient and effective. This is no mean achievement and I, and my fellow trustees, thank and congratulate Citizens Advice staff for their work.
The restructuring we undertook made us look again at how we work with bureaux, so we can help them keep up with the ever-changing demands made on them in an increasingly competitive environment. At the same time we reviewed how we relate to our external stakeholders, including Government. We have devised new structures for building better relationships both within the service and externally.
During this time we have managed some major new projects, most notably The Treasury’s Financial Inclusion Fund for face-to-face debt advice. We have also looked to the future in developing our 2008-11 service strategy, focusing in particular on improving access to advice. Key to this is a gateway assessment model, and I am pleased to see so many bureaux adopting this approach which, I believe, will help them to manage client demand more effectively and will allow more people to use our service.
Our policy work continues to benefit at least as many people as are helped in bureaux. It also builds the reputation of the service, bringing us recognition and publicity that benefits bureaux and Citizens Advice alike. Likewise our work on an equality and diversity strategy (FAIR) has been successful, moving us towards our aim of becoming a first point of contact for people who may have suffered discrimination.
We live in challenging times – part of the challenge is to seize the opportunities that present while avoiding being caught out by the unexpected. We have all, bureaux and Citizens Advice, worked hard to get where we are and we have shown ourselves adaptable to changing policies and demands. We are now in better shape to meet what the future brings.
Revd. Hilary Watkins MBE