Why research and campaigns is important at Citizens Advice Stockport
Citizens Advice has two key aims; to provide the advice people need for the problems they face and to improve the policies and practices that affect people’s lives.
We are best known within our communities for being “that place to go when you need advice”. Unfortunately, we are not so well known for the campaigning work we do on behalf of our clients which is why I and the board of trustees felt it important to ensure that at Citizens Advice Stockport research and campaigns is represented at the highest level of the organisation — the Senior Leadership Team and at the Trustee Board.
Citizens Advice is one of the only organisations which has the ability to use (with permission) the stories and experiences our clients face to challenge and change policy and practices at a local, regional and national level — not just in local and national government, but also corporate organisations.
Promoting the work we do through research and campaigns also helps with the advertising of the Citizens Advice service within the community. We can no longer take for granted that people “just know about us" and with more and more organisations claiming to offer free, independent, impartial and confidential information and advice, the sector in which we used to dominate has become a lot more competitive.
There are people who have never used, or even heard of their local Citizens Advice so by ensuring research and campaigns is promoted, it shows the community, funders and partner organisations that we are here and ready to work with them.
Jake Morrison is our lead on the Senior Leadership Team for research and campaigns and we have an ambitious plan to shout about the problems our clients are facing and show the positive work we do.
Between April 2017 and March 2018 Citizens Advice Stockport dealt with 4,300 issues relating to Benefits and Tax Credits, and 2800 issues relating to Debt. These two issues account for nearly 50% of the issues we dealt with in that period.
We have a duty to our clients to fight their corner on issues that are affecting them; sanctions by the job centre, unfair penalties by credit companies, or housing disrepair issues.
We are always looking to develop our team of volunteers who help us promote the issues our clients face and the work we do, especially in new and innovative ways.