The success of the CAB network

The success of the CAB network

25th April 2023

Scotland can lead the world by building on the success of the CAB network

by George Eckton, CAS Director of Advice Services,

This article was first published in the Herald on 22 April 2023.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on a Community Wealth Building (CWB) Bill, with legislation expected to be passed in this parliament. If it is passed, Scotland would be the first country in the world to have laws around Community Wealth Building. We have an opportunity to do something transformative and world-leading in how we deliver services and economic growth in a way that is led by local people and communities

I have written before about how the CWB approach mirrors the Citizens Advice ethos of advocacy and providing advice to retain and enhance citizen rights.

The CWB agenda is focused on transforming local economies to ensure they work for the benefit of all citizens, particularly those who have been historically marginalised. Citizens Advice Bureaux (CABs) are well placed to deliver this agenda as they have a strong track record of working closely with local communities, and have a deep understanding of the challenges faced by those who are struggling to make ends meet. There are 59 CABs delivering services across Scotland, meaning the financial gains they unlock are spread out across the country and more often than not retained in the communities themselves.

CABs also create opportunities for local people to develop their skills, boost their confidence and service their local communities. Over a third of our volunteers go on to further employment and education, and this itself is an underestimate given the significant portion of our volunteers who are retired and simply looking to give something back to their communities.

Our network therefore has a twin benefit for local people: empowering them through delivering financial gains and protecting their rights, and also opening up skills and employability opportunities as volunteers. The proposed law should take these benefits and extend them, making CABs the foundation of a world-leading CWB agenda in Scotland.

That is why we would like the proposals in the consultation for the Bill to go further in a number of areas, such as formally recognising the value of volunteering, not just as a means of delivering services but as a means of empowering local people by giving them opportunities to volunteer, give back to their communities and build their skills.

Likewise, the Bill could and should recognise the vital role than advice could play in Community Wealth Building, as well as the preventative and early intervention aspects of advocacy, where front-line organisations like Citizens Advice engage with government to discuss the impact of their policies and suggest changes.

The new law offers a terrific chance to build community wealth in Scotland, but it needs to be based in the real world of practical delivery. CABs are already building community wealth in communities across Scotland. The new Act could incorporate and upscale our model, using our well-recognised brand, our vast experience and our volunteer-led service. 

We will continue to engage with the Government to make these points and we hope they will listen, to ensure that Scotland's CWB Act becomes a beacon for others to emulate.