By Daniel Hunter
The Citizens Advice Service received a boost in its role as the voice of the consumer as Consumer Minister Jo Swinson announced £9.5million of additional funding.
During a visit to Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau in Paisley, Scotland, the Minister will be announcing a funding package of £9.5million to Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland. The funding will support the work of the Service which will become a ‘one-stop shop’ for information, education and advice about general consumer matters.
“We are committed to supporting the Citizens Advice Service whose work is crucial to providing consumers with fair and impartial advice," Consumer Minister Jo Swinson said.
"I will be seeing this work in action in Paisley today. Offices here and around the country have worked hard to help consumers despite tough times, and that is why I am thrilled we are providing more funding.
“Citizens Advice has built up trust in communities to become a respected household name; consumers know that when they have a question or a problem they can approach their local Citizens Advice with ease.
"That is why the Citizens Advice Service is setting the standard as the consumer body and will take on new functions from 1 April. I am confident that these changes will boost consumer confidence and protection enormously.”
The extra funding will help Citizens Advice as it takes on more responsibility as part of the changes announced by government to reshape the consumer landscape. From 1 April 2013 the Citizens Advice Service will work on consumer advocacy and education, as Consumer Focus and the OFT prepare to handover their work.
This means that when consumers need someone to take forward their complaint, provide advice and information or know what their consumer rights are, they now have one place to go. This initiative is part of wider government reforms which will give greater clarity to consumers about where they need to turn for help and advice, through clearer responsibilities and better co-ordination between consumer bodies and enforcers.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said: “More than 14 million people currently use our website, we see over 2 million people in our bureaux and speak to a further 2 million by phone. This additional capital funding from BIS will enable us to help even more people by improving our digital infrastructure and continuing to enhance the information that we are able to provide to all our clients. It will also help us gather more evidence to identify and act on the most pressing problems facing the nation.”
Margaret Lynch, CEO of CAS who will be at the Paisley event, said: “The CAB service in Scotland is in the front-line of helping people deal with the problems they face as a result of the recession and the changes to the benefits system. Here in Paisley, as across Scotland, CAB staff and volunteers are stretched more than they have ever been, and the level of demand is set to continue to rise. Our advisers need the best possible support if they are to continue the vital work that they do - not just in giving free, confidential and impartial advice to those who need it, but also in taking on these enhanced responsibilities for consumer protection.
“The funding that is being announced today will help and every penny of it is sorely needed and will be put to good use. But it must not be a one-off. Our service needs sustained investment which recognises the crucial role we play in our communities. People need to know that the CAB service will continue to offer them the best possible support — just as we always have.”
In conjunction with the Minister’s visit to Paisley, BIS has supported this month’s launch of Scotland’s Stop Loan Sharks campaign, with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). COSLA’s campaign aims to make consumers more aware of the dangers of loan sharks, urging the general public to report suspected unlicensed lenders and seek help from organisations such as Citizens Advice if they have money worries.
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