York Citizens Advice Bureau How did our advice help you?

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1 York Citizens Advice Bureau How did our advice help you?

2 Introduction 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 inclusive. 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 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 residents. 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. 1% 4% 7% What issues did we help you with? 5% 10% 8% 4% 3% 21% Benefits and Tax Credits Debt Housing Employment Health Immigration/Asylum/Nationality Other Financial Consumer Legal 37% 1

3 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 facing. 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? 36% 19% 13% 3% 22% 69% 17% 3% 22% I was very scared and worried by my issues. My back and shoulders was like a brick with the stress of it 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. The advisor was well informed, efficient and sympathetic to our needs 6% 17% 2% How was the help? 6% Brilliant Good Good Enough 49% Could be better Very Poor Prefer not to say 20% 2

4 1 1 The above image made using the how was the help? free flow box on the questionnaire. 3

5 What happened 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? 2% 9% 5% 3% 41% My problem has been completely sorted out My problem has been partly sorted out My problem is not sorted, waiting for action to be taken 17% 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 23% Prefer not to say The service I have received has been brilliant and I m now seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Advice gave me links to others to help solve problem 4 CAB were very supportive and helped me more than I could have wished

6 The Outcomes 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 poverty 2.On average, clients incomes were increased by per week through additional benefits received. 1 in 2 are now managing their debt or have had them written off average weekly increase through benefit take up This works out as an extra 66, per year for these 64 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 locally 3. 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. 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-being 4 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. 2 The benefits of welfare rights advice: a review of the literature, National Association of Welfare Rights Advisors, Available at: 3 A Helping Hand: the Impact of Debt Advice on People s Lives. Legal Services Research Centre, Available at: 4 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. 5 Hobby, L. and Emanuel, J Citizen s Advice Bureaux in primary care in England and Wales A review of available information 5

7 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 No Difference Worse Prefer not to say Confidence Ability to manage your bills Peace of mind and well being Health and comfort Relationships with family and friends Knowledge about how things work Ability to help yourself 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 No Difference Less Prefer not to say Optimistic about the future Feeling useful Feeling relaxed Dealing with problems well Thinking clearly Feeling close to other people Able to make my own mind up about things Conclusion 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 6

8 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 charity. 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 Please note the image on the front cover is made using the additional comments section on the questionnaire 7

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