The CAB network is a charity you can trust
by Stuart Wilson, CAS Head of Standards.
This article was first published in the Herald on 24 October 2022.
Every week we publish an article here in this space outlining a policy opinion or explaining a particular piece of work that we in CAS do. But last week we got a letter asking us to explain what exactly the CAB network is, and how it works.
It was a good reminder that sometimes it’s worth covering the basics. Especially as our network is seeing such high demand for advice at the moment with the cost of living crisis. If you’re going to trust us with your finances, you’re entitled to know what exactly is this organisation? and why should we trust it?
So here’s the first thing you need to know: we are a charity. I say that because many people think that the CAB is somehow an arm of the government. No, we are a charity, and our service is completely free, confidential and impartial.
Secondly, we’ve been around for over 80 years, which says something about our quality and credibility. The first CABs were set up at the start of World War Two, intended to be temporary but were considered such a success that we’ve grown and grown. Today, Scotland’s Citizens Advice network is made up of 59 local CABs, plus an Extra Help Unit.
Third, the quality of our adviser training programme is extremely high. A few years ago it was shortlisted for a worldwide learning technology award, and our training and learning materials have been used as a benchmark for many other charities and advice organisations.
Working in a local CAB can be varied for staff and volunteers as they know that they can be asked to provide advice on just about anything. Although debt, benefits and cost of living advice are the most common, your local CAB offers advice on many more subjects, e.g. council tax, housing, scams, divorce, funerals, immigration, and NHS patients’ rights. Our advisers are adept at handling any issue that comes through the door.
Finally, why can you trust us? Well, CAS has a Quality Assurance team in place which monitors all of our CABs against a set of very high standards. I head this team and I can assure you that our process is rigorous. Every three months a selection of cases from all of our CABs are checked for quality, ensuring the advice given is consistent and correct. Additionally, each CAB undertakes an operational audit every 3 years. Any slips in quality – which I’m happy to say are rare – are quickly identified and we provide support for the CAB to get them back on track.
These high standards and consistent testing - alongside the wonderful skills and commitment of our advisers across the country - are what gives us our reputation for consistent reliable advice. A couple of years ago, 95% people in Scotland who had used a Scottish CAB said they would recommend it to others. That’s a statistic we’re really proud of, and are determined to maintain – or improve.
So when you see our blue and yellow circular logo you know it’s a brand that you can trust. There’s no profit, money making schemes or commission with our advice. Your local CAB is a charity whose only aim is to support you - just as we have these last 83 years.