All our impact
Each year, Citizens Advice helps millions of people find a way forward. We do this by providing advice, education and support, and influencing policies and practices that affect our clients.
This is the story of our impact in 2016/17 - and the start of a wider conversation about what that means to the people we help and society.
This year, we know more about our impact than ever before. The new research behind our impact report helps us better understand the effect our advice has on people’s lives, and the difference we make to local communities. Using a Treasury-approved model, we can also put a financial estimate on this value.
For further details on how we’ve produced our financial estimate, we’ve put together a full technical annex: Modelling our value to society in 2016/17 [ 0.7 mb].
Helping people find a way forward - our 2015/16 impact report
Helping people find a way forward [ 0.84 mb] draws together evidence of the impact of our activities across Citizens Advice, and demonstrates our considerable value to society. It’s the complete story of what we do and achieve, and what would be lost to society if we were not here.
For further details on how we’ve produced our financial estimate, we’ve put together a full technical annex: Modelling our value to society in 2015/16. [ 0.88 mb]
The value of the Citizens Advice service: our impact in 2014/15
In 2015, we published our first impact report, The value of the Citizens Advice service: our impact in 2014/15 [ 0.96 mb]. This demonstrated how all of our activities and the way we work come together to help people find a way forward: benefiting individuals, government and society.
- We also produced a technical annex to explain our 2014/15 financial estimate: Modelling the value of the Citizens Advice service 2014-15 [ 0.85 mb]
Our impact work has been recognised as an example of best practice across the sector at the 2015 Charity Times Awards, where we were thrilled to win ‘Charity of the Year’.
We are able to demonstrate our impact because we have credible evidence of why people need support from our service, how we help, and what this achieves.
Why we're needed
Life is complicated. Sometimes people encounter challenges and problems that they don’t know how to deal with, and they need help to overcome.
- 9 in 10 of our clients said their problem affected their lives, including causing anxiety and financial difficulty
4 in 5 experienced a shock or life event before their problem
- 2 in 3 say they had difficulty knowing who to contact or how systems work before advice
People need different types of support at various times in their life. We believe individuals should be able to get help in the way that works for them and meets their needs.
We’re here to help everyone in society that needs us. The people we serve through our local network are often among the most disadvantaged in society with the greatest needs.
Local Citizens Advice clients are four times more likely to live on a low income than an average member of the England and Wales population
This is compared an average member of England and Wales. This could lead to clients not having enough money to eat healthily, maintain adequate accommodation and fully participate in society.
Our latest outcomes and impact research also found that twice as many of the people we help find their financial situation either difficult or very difficult compared to the national average.
We also see a correlation between where our clients live and areas of local deprivation: our local Citizens Advice reach 4.4% of any local population, rising to 9% on average in areas of deprivation.
Clients accessing face-to-face advice are much more likely to be at risk of digital exclusion
- Our face-to-face clients are twice as likely to lack basic digital skills than adults in the UK
- And face-to-face clients are twice as likely to lack internet access than adults in Britain
When trying to solve a problem - or simply managing everyday life - individuals need the right knowledge, skills and mindset to be able to make decisions and take action.
We need to understand people's financial capability in the context of their circumstances
For our national report Understanding money skills [ 4.9 mb] (2017), we surveyed over 1,000 face-to-face local Citizens Advice clients from across England and Wales on their baseline money skills.
- Most people need support in at least one money skills area (63%) - while a significant minority - 1 in 10 - need help in all money skill areas
- People primarily need support in being confident about taking action on their money matters (49%), knowing the main information about their money services (42%), as well as acting to stay informed about this (45%)
- Core money skills are where clients do well, in how often they keep track of money (58%) and in their knowledge of controlling spending (58%)
- However, high capability doesn’t preclude the need for support. There can be notable differences between what people know and how they act
- A range of fixed and transient factors play a role in people’s money skills, e.g. demographics, related needs and life events. Some people need more help than others, for example because of ill-health or being a renter
This research helps us understand the complex nature of our clients’ financial capability so we can provide more holistic, appropriate services that help people find a way forward.
You can learn more about our current work on skills, knowledge and mindset via Understanding what works - including more on our research into our local clients’ digital capability and financial capability.
What we do
We aim to help people find a way forward. Everything Citizens Advice does shares this aim. As a service we:
help people overcome their problems through advice, education and support;
campaign on the big issues when people’s voices need to be heard; and
benefit society through the way we work.
The difference this makes
We have robust evidence on the effectiveness of our advice provision, showing that our service really works.
We solve 7 in 10 clients' problems, and 4 in 5 said that advice improved their lives
Our research into the outcomes and impact of our advice demonstrated that at least 7 out of every 10 clients who seek our help will have their problem partly or completely solved.
It also showed that advice does more than solve the immediate problem: it can reduce stress, improve finances and stabilise housing or employment. Our clients say that advice improved their lives even when their problems are not resolved.
Solving and preventing individuals' problems creates considerable value to society
Using a Treasury-approved model, we know that in 2016/17, for every £1 spent on Citizens Advice, we benefit our clients by £13. We saved government and public services £430 million. We estimate that our total social and economic value to society to be over £2.8bn.
This is a minimum return. We haven’t tried to monetise everything, sticking instead to what we know and can firmly evidence, using credible costings and proxies to illustrate our value to society. Against the backdrop of millions of individuals with different needs and the transformative effect that advice can have, we acknowledge that our findings here are simplified and likely to underplay our true value.
See our full technical annex (above) for more details.
Find out more about:
How we measure our impact
We have a responsibility and are committed to understanding the difference we make to the people we work with and communities across England and Wales.
Understanding our intended impact and what we actually achieved is vital.