Dame Clare Moriarty calls for ‘age of advice’ as charity continues to see record demand

  • Citizens Advice CEO issues call for more holistic support in conference address

  • On average, each person supported by the charity has five interconnected problems.

  • Earlier this year the charity estimated five million people were in a negative budget - with monthly essential expenditure exceeding their income - including 1.5 million children

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said an increasingly complex and uncertain world underlined the need for a new age of advice in an address to staff and volunteers from across England and Wales at the charity’s Annual Conference in Birmingham on Tuesday (16 April).

The charity is not only helping more people than ever before with access to emergency support like charitable grants and food bank vouchers, but also seeing the problems people face grow in complexity. 

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“We exist to shape a society in which people face far fewer problems. The empowering quality of advice must be part of the answer to a more complex and uncertain world.

“Citizens Advice has been here since the Second World War and the assumption is we will always be there to help. But the reality is that it’s getting harder for our local services to keep the doors open.

“As the issues people face become increasingly complex, our advice has never been more needed. The challenge ahead is to ensure we can continue to be that vital lifeline.”

Dame Clare Moriarty also highlighted the need for public services to adapt their approach to meet this increasing complexity:

“How money is spent is important. We know that, for want of the right advice at the right time, people can end up with much more expensive - and less effective - ways of dealing with their problems.

“Yet it proves remarkably difficult to redirect funding to where it’s more effective. Services are increasingly commissioned with narrow scopes, for narrow groups or for narrow time-periods.

“In an age of uncertainty, when we know people’s problems are becoming more complex and more interrelated, it is time to make the case for more holistic support.

Citizens Advice, which recently launched a new strategy, was founded in 1939 and will celebrate its 85th birthday in September. Last year it supported more than two and a half million people across its services. Dame Clare Moriarty cited the economic shock of Covid and the cost-of-living crisis as core reasons for increased demand.


Citizens Advice’s latest data:

  • Advisers continue to support record numbers of people in crisis. Referrals for food banks and charitable support peaked in January when more than 33,000 sought help from the charity. Currently, frontline staff are helping over 900 people a day access a food bank.

  • People seeking support from the charity have increasingly complex problems. On average, each person seen by an adviser has five interconnected problems. For example, over 50% of people struggling with energy issues like affordability also need access to crisis support.

  • Debt problems are becoming more and more severe. Advisers are supporting people with greater levels of debt and less ability to pay them. Earlier this year Citizens Advice estimated five million people were in a negative budget - including 1.5 million children. A further 2.35 million are living on empty - only escaping a negative budget by cutting their essential spending back to unsafe levels.

Further graphs can be found on the charity’s data dashboard

The charity’s strategy has three key missions:

  1. Provide advice fit for the future. Evolving its support for people and ensuring those with complex challenges are seen and supported fully and in a way that meets their needs.

  2. Close the gap. Ensuring marginalised people and communities, who often disproportionately face the issues Citizens Advice works on, can access advice and have a positive experience of the service.

  3. Take early action. Reducing the number of people in crisis by taking early action and tackling issues at their root cause, including through policy change.