The experience of local Citizens Advice gives a unique, fresh insight into the problems faced every day by people living in the UK.
As well giving advice we also use what we see and hear to prevent problems in the first place. The stories clients share with Wiltshire Citizens Advice gives us a unique insight into the problems faced by people in Wiltshire.
With over two million clients seen in England and Wales each year by the Citizens Advice service it's the kind of evidence that's hard to ignore. It's all too apparent when policies and services cause people problems.
We see it as our responsibility to create a public debate around these issues and to speak up for clients.
Citizens Advice, locally and nationally, collects evidence of clients' problems and uses this to campaign for changes in national and local policies and services. We have a key role in speaking up for clients, raising issues brought to us, contributing to public debate and informing legislation.
The policy / campaign work of the Citizens Advice service covers a huge range of issues including consumer, debt, housing, benefits, immigration, employment, legal matters and health. We work with policymakers, regulators, MPs, and service providers.
Helping to help more people than the people we see
Everyone is affected by rules and principles which shape the services and benefits we all rely on. These may include regulations, codes of practice, legislation, guidelines and policies of service providers; they may be national, regional or local. All social policy work undertaken is rooted in the experiences of real people who are adversely affected by these policies; social policy is about campaigning to bring about changes to make the rules (and their implementation) fairer for all.
The Citizens Advice service has built a strong reputation for independent analysis and has worked with government, companies, regulators, trade associations and consumer groups to secure change for those who are adversely affected by unfair policies.
It is recognised that the best way to tackle any problem is to treat the cause, not just the symptoms. This is what social policy aims to do. We cannot see everyone who needs help individually and many people do not access our services, for various reasons. However, we can - and do - reach out and help people beyond our core service users through our social policy work, by bringing about changes that reduce unfairness.