Give some time to your local CAB

Give some time to your local CAB

4th January 2023

A New Year's Resolution? Give some time to your local CAB

by Ash Kuloo, CAS Head of Network Services.

This column was first published in the Herald on 31 December 2022.

In my younger years I volunteered in my local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). Today – many years, many volunteering roles and many jobs later - my role here at CAS includes working with the Scottish CAB network on volunteer recruitment. Funny old world.

Back then, the application process was easy enough. I filled in a form and then went into the CAB for a chat, and I was offered a volunteer adviser position.

I didn’t get to start advising people immediately though. The training and induction programme lasted a few weeks, and even when I started giving advice, I had support help to make sure I was OK. I was also able to agree with them what hours I would be able to offer.

The CAB environment was welcoming and well-organised; we were a great team, and the other volunteers were really nice. Soon I was able to give clients advice on my own, on a wide range of issues.

You never knew what problems people were going to come in with. However, with the knowledge and expertise I gradually gained, and with the support from my colleagues, I was able to really help people. I helped people with benefit claims, legal woes, discrimination and problems at work. I helped tenants with problem landlords, and landlords with problem tenants, I helped on immigration issues and supported victims of domestic abuse, helping them to access the support they needed through local services.

I remember helping a lot of people whose first language was not English, or they had limited spoken English, people who needed sign language and people who came with physical disabilities. Advising those people really helped me to understand the sorts of barriers people face when accessing services, and how things have now changed to ensure we have more accessible services for all people in all communities.

For me, volunteering brought a sense of achievement, as I knew that I’d helped and empowered people to really change their lives. It also benefitted my own CV and was a step to a better career.

There are nearly 2,000 volunteers in CABs across Scotland. The time they give varies but the average is around six hours. Our network wouldn’t exist without them.

And if you don’t fancy being a front-line adviser, there are other ways you can give your time to a CAB. For example, fundraising or computer work.

Also, every CAB is run by a Board of Trustees who are also volunteers, so that’s another option. Trustees make decisions about the CAB and how it is operates.

Anyone can volunteer in their local CAB. But one thing I’d particularly like to stress is that CABs strive to create opportunities for people from all communities. As a network, we believe that a diverse volunteer team brings richness and culture to our service as well as skills, knowledge, and learning. The CABs benefit greatly from their volunteers, the volunteers benefit from the opportunity and communities benefit through the advice and support they receive. What’s not to love about that?

So, if you have some time on your hands and you’re looking for a New Year’s Resolution, how about it? Find out more at your local CAB, or here.