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Investigation into financial capability training materials

In August 2019, we were alerted to training materials on our website containing unacceptable material relating to Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. We removed these materials and our Chief Executive carried out an investigation to understand how this happened and to make sure it does not happen again.

The investigation found that:

  • the materials in question had not been through an approval process, having been developed outside standard processes for training and online content
  • the materials were developed without appropriate equality expertise, and revealed a misunderstanding of what constitutes expertise in equality
  • the materials were published to a section of our website that lacked adequate technical controls around editing and publication
  • there were insufficiently robust protocols in place to escalate issues flagged to the organisation on social media

Our Chief Executive has committed to enact the report’s recommendations in full and as a matter of urgency. They include:

  • providing greater support for staff to understand what constitutes equality expertise, and how they should use such expertise in their work
  • requiring such input as standard as part of the development of related content
  • producing all training materials in line with our process for advice content development, with best practice shared between teams
  • tightening the technical controls around the editing and publication of online materials
  • building the skills of the organisation in engaging on social media, and ensuring clear escalation protocols and accountabilities

You can download the full investigation report [pdf, 190 kb].

The Chief Executive is also clear that this incident - and in particular the response to it - has highlighted a wider issue. As an organisation, we’ve been too slow in our progress on inclusivity and diversity.

We’ll now put that right - our Chief Executive has set out plans to accelerate our work to become a more diverse and inclusive employer.

She has also strengthened a series of accountability mechanisms, pledging a quarterly update on progress to staff and tougher performance measures on diversity, to drive this work through.

The organisation’s wider work on inclusivity and diversity has been supported by the Chair and Trustee Board. The organisation’s Equality Committee will also be closely involved as we drive and monitor progress.

The work will be delivered in collaboration with Citizens Advice staff, alongside our staff union Unite and in partnership with the organisation’s network groups, including the network group for BAME staff.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“It’s now clear that several failings led to this unacceptable material being on our website. I apologise unreservedly for this. We are acting quickly to make sure this can’t happen again.

“I don’t want us to stop there. I believe this incident, and the debate it led to, highlights important wider issues. We’ve been too slow in our progress on inclusivity and diversity - when as an organisation, and as a sector, we should be leading the way.

“We’ll therefore accelerate our plans to become a more diverse and inclusive organisation - confronting and addressing inequalities, investing resources and setting bold targets, and better reflecting the huge value diversity brings to our work.”

Warren Buckley, Chair of Citizens Advice, said:

“The Board and I have worked closely with Gillian to get to the root of this matter and to learn lessons. We support the investigation’s recommendations and give the Executive our backing to take these forward at pace.

“Our Equality Committee, a sub-committee of the Board, will also work with Gillian and her team as the organisation sees through its wider plans to become more diverse and inclusive. The organisation intends to make bold progress on this front and this ambition is shared by myself and the Board.”