York Citizens Advice Bureau – How did our advice help you?
York Citizens Advice Bureau –
How did our advice help you?
York CAB is an independent charity that gives free, confidential and independent legal
advice on a huge range of issues, including debt, benefits, consumer and employment.
In 2013/14, York Citizens Advice Bureau advised 5,600 clients on over 17,000 issues.
This represents around 3.5% of the local population. Our client profile is broad and
It is important for us to know that the advice we give to clients makes a real difference
to them. We measure the impact of our advice by assessing whether clients achieve
outcomes, such as an increase in benefit take up, or the ability to manage their debt.
However, many clients only visit the Bureau once, or do not return after advice to let us
know whether or how their problems were solved following advice. So to give us a
better reflection on how our advice helps clients, we sent an outcome survey to all
clients who had a new enquiry in January 2014.
We sent these surveys five months after the initial advice and gave clients one month to
complete the survey. Of around 500 surveys sent out we received back 64 completed
surveys, giving us a 13% completion rate. This report looks at the results from the
outcome survey and shows how advice provided by York CAB advice has helped local
The Advice Needed
The 64 clients responding received help to deal with 76 problems. The top three issues
were welfare benefits and tax credits, debt and housing. Advice on theses issues can
result in a number of outcomes, from an increased income from benefit take up, to
debts being managed or written off and homelessness averted.
Paul had fallen into financial difficulty when he
was made redundant from his job during the
economic downturn. Without this steady income,
Paul found managing his bills impossible and
quickly fell into mortgage arrears.
When he received a court letter he knew he was
out of his depth and turned to the CAB for help.
CAB were able to support Paul to get his
payments back on track as he began a new job.
However, soon after he was made redundant
once again and the same problems appeared.
The Bureau’s housing debt adviser was able to
give Paul advice and support to resolve his
problems. They drew up an income and
expenditure sheet, helped Paul claim Job
Seekers Allowance, got funding to clear his
mortgage and fuel arrears and got him help with
his mortgage payments.
Paul faced the threat of losing his home and
throwing his family life into chaos. Instead he
can now enjoy his restored financial security, will
soon be debt free and is now back in work.
What issues did we help
Benefits and Tax Credits
We asked clients how their problems had been affecting their lives prior to receiving
advice. Clients reported a number of ways in which they, and their families were being
affected. The greatest impact was stress and worry which was reported by two out of three
people. 22% of people also cited worsening health as a result of the issues they were
In total 55% of people told us their problems meant they were having great difficulty
affording even the basics, with over one third struggling to pay bills and almost one in
five having difficulty affording food. A maximised income as a result of advice and
benefit take up can help clients to deal with these issues.
How were your issues effecting you?
“I was very
worried by my
issues. My back
was like a brick
with the stress
Clients were extremely positive about the help they received, with three quarters giving a
positive response to the advice they received. Many were extremely grateful for the help
they got and the quality of the advice given.
Only a very small number of clients (four) felt the help they received was poor. It is worth
noting the reason for this was that we were unable to provide a positive outcome to their
issue, usually due to legislative rules including missed deadlines or the nature of the
enquiry. Those who felt the service could be better gave some useful suggestions such as
less signposting to websites and trying to improve the waiting times.
“Both I and my parents
knew nothing of how the
appeals system worked
and so the assistance CAB
provided was invaluable.”
How was the help?
“The advisor was well
informed, efficient and
sympathetic to our needs”
Could be better
Prefer not to say
The above image made using the how was the help? free flow box on the questionnaire.
Clients told us the advice they received made a difference to them. 64% told us the advice
they received helped with sorting out their issues, with a further 17% still waiting for the
outcome. Two in five told us that because of the advice they received their problems were
completely solved. Of these people, 65% said the problem could not have been solved
without the advice. Whilst 92% said the advice had a positive impact in helping to solve the
problem. This clearly shows the value advice has on helping people solve their problems.
In addition to advice from York CAB, clients felt that support from family and friends, as
well as other organisations, also helped them. One reoccurring theme was that their
determination to solve the problem had also been a contributing factor.
All those who told us that their problem was only partly solved explained to us that this
was due to action still being taken such as, waiting for creditors to get back to them. This
means that two in five were in this situation. Almost half of these clients (42%) waiting for
further action were dealing with debts. Dealing with debt problems does not often have a
quick solution, and paying off the debt can take a long time. This is reflected in these
results. Some people dealing with benefit issues also reported their issues were still
ongoing. Welfare reform has changed the way the benefits system works so that the
process for claiming benefits can take a long time. This is particularly true with benefits
such as Employment Support Allowance where assessments, reconsiderations and
appeals can take months.
Those whose situation had not improved or got worse, were mainly issues where there was
nothing we or the client could do as the issue was outside our remit.
What has happened as a result of the help?
My problem has been completely
My problem has been partly
My problem is not sorted, waiting
for action to be taken
My situation has got worse and I
don’t know what to do
My situation has got worse but I
know what to do about it
Nothing has changed and nothing
is being done
Prefer not to say
“The service I have received
has been brilliant and I’m now
seeing light at the end of the
“Advice gave me links to others to
help solve problem”
“CAB were very supportive
and helped me more than I
could have wished”
One in five clients reported that as a result of the advice they were now claiming benefits
they previously had been unable to or were unaware that they were entitled to. There are
huge benefits to the individual from the take up of benefit
entitlement, including improving the financial position of the
household, increasing standards of living and reducing
deprivation and poverty2.On average, clients’ incomes
were increased by £98.42 per week through additional
This works out as an extra £66,533.05 per year for these 64
benefit take up
York residents who have been surveyed. Increased income
does not just benefit those individuals but also the York
economy, as the additional money is often used to purchase goods and services locally3.
The other significant outcome was in the number of debts written off, and debts managed.
50% of those who received advice on debt problems are now
managing their debts or have had their debts written off.
1 in 2
debt or have had
them written off
The benefit to individuals of managing their debt goes beyond
purely financial gains. Research by the Legal Services
Research Centre found that a year after receiving advice,
90% of clients reported improvements in their health. They
went on to talk of cases where doctors have ‘prescribed’ debt
advice as it has been seen as a more effective route to
addressing poor health brought about by debt. 2
The managing of debt provides huge financial costs to the wider public as the average cost
per debt problem to the public (including lost economic output) is estimated to be over
£1,000, with more serious problems costing many times this amount. 2
5% of our clients reported other financial gains as a result of the advice such as refunds for
consumer products and the payment of monies owed.
Health and Well-being4
There is a large body of research looking at the links between advice and health and well
being; with studies showing that 80 per cent of patients reported improvement in their
physical or mental well-being following CAB advice.5 We asked a number of questions
looking at both health and well-being. The greatest outcome reported by our clients was a
positive improvement in their peace of mind, and well-being. In total 80% reported
improvements in their well-being, and 50% of those indicated that this was significantly
increased. 69% also said that they now had more knowledge about how things work.
The benefits of welfare rights advice: a review of the literature, National Association of Welfare Rights Advisors, 2006. Available at:
A Helping Hand: the Impact of Debt Advice on People’s Lives. Legal Services Research Centre, 2007. Available at:
It is worth noting that around one third of clients did not fill out this section of the survey. This is shown in the graphs as ‘Prefer not to say’. The
figures within the text have excluded those who did not answer.
Hobby, L. and Emanuel, J. 1998. Citizen’s Advice Bureaux in primary care in England and Wales A review of available information
This is extremely empowering for clients and indicates that they may be more able to help
themselves more in the future, or will at least understand more about what is happening.
This increased knowledge will enable clients to avoid getting into problems in the future as
they are more aware of the processes and what they need to do.
Health and Well-being
A lot better
A bit better
Peace of mind
manage your and well being
Prefer not to say
with family and
Ability to help
We also asked clients to rate themselves on the Warwick and Edinburgh Mental Well-being
scale (WEMWBS). This is a validated scale for assessing mental well-being in the adult
population used by health researchers across the UK. As we were unable to ask the clients
to rate themselves before and after advice, we asked them to tell us if they had seen an
improvement following the advice. The greatest improvement was in the numbers feeling
more optimistic in the future (72%). This indicates huge improvements in mental wellbeing.
60% said they were now more able to think clearly. Combined with the numbers feeling
more able to make up their own mind (60%), this suggests that these clients are now more
equipped to making decisions and to stay in control of their lives.
Mental Well-being (WEMWBS)
A lot more
A bit more
Prefer not to say
Feeling useful Feeling relaxed Dealing with Thinking clearly Feeling close to Able to make
other people my own mind
up about things
The results from our Outcome Survey clearly show that the advice provided by York CAB is
hugely beneficial to both our clients and the wider community. Advice makes a difference
by helping to increase incomes, stabilise debt and resolve problems. Clients demonstrated
that advice services deliver positive outcomes which contribute to reducing poverty and
increasing health and well-being.
Following advice, some of the headline outcomes include:
50% are now managing their debts
20% of clients gained through increased benefit take up
80% saw an improvement in their peace of mind and well-being
72% felt more optimistic about the future
69% now have more knowledge about how things work
The Citizens Advice service is the UK’s largest provider of free advice for
members of the public. York Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is part of a network
comprising 338 Citizens Advice Bureaux. Each bureau operates as an individual
Together, the service delivers advice services from over 3,300 community
locations in England and Wales. In addition to the advice provided through
bureaux, Citizens Advice is responsible for the National Consumer Helpline and
offers self-help through our website, Adviceguide.
For more information on this report please contact:
Rebecca Jeffrey, Advice York Social Policy coordinator
01904 683 927
Please note the image on the front cover is made using the additional comments section on the questionnaire