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The ‘other’ social value of Citizens Advice: as a trusted reporter. Lisa Davis.  


“As a trusted reporter, Citizens Advice helps the public, government and business understand the causes of social problems and what to do about them.”
Things you may have missed about us. Number 4. (4 mins)

Lisa Davis is CEO at Citizens Advice Epsom & Ewell.

Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis have put a spotlight on the social value of the information Citizens Advice collects and communicates. We are are similar to the canary in the mine, except that our voice grows stronger as the air gets worse!

Our charity network exists for 2 reasons. First, to help people find a way through their problems. Second, to use the information it gathers for society’s benefit. It does this by helping governments and business work better and stop problems happening.

Not a side-hustle

The second is much more than a side hustle. In a data-driven world demand for information about emerging issues has never been higher.

This may be partly due to a run of unusual events – pandemic, political turmoil, cost of living crisis. But what of the year ahead? The country could move into a period of greater stability, even optimism. Alternatively, uncertainty and insecurity could go on affecting lives and livelihoods.

Either way, at local and national level, Citizens Advice leaders believe the value of our information and recommendations will only grow. For some good reasons:

Growing interest

A large and growing number of people and organisations have a professional or personal interest in understanding social developments. Think policymakers, economic and social research think tanks, mainstream and social media, health and social care groups, support charities, millions of volunteers and unpaid carers.

Early warnings

For good or ill (we think generally good) there’s a kind of market in ideas among social researchers, government and business decision-makers. Being early to highlight a problem and propose a solution commands respect. We can help with that. Citizens Advice provides a regular flow of near-real-time insights. The national charity runs monthly cost-of-living briefings open to all online. It maintains Advice Trends for social and consumer issues. Meanwhile Local Citizens Advice provide community-level news; for example check out CAEE research posts and newsletters.

Independence and impartiality

Information you can trust will become more valuable. People are questioning the accuracy and honesty of information reaching the public through multiple channels. Citizens Advice information is based on confidential 1-to-1 interactions of trained advisers with thousands of clients every day. This unique source of data, plus a forever commitment to independent and impartial advice, adds up to a reputation for reliability. In market terms ‘Citizens Advice’ is a trusted brand, widely referenced by those who shape social policy. And those who report it, as just a fleeting look at mainstream media headlines in recent years will confirm.

The good organisation

Finally, the Citizens Advice business model chimes with changing views and expectations of organisations and good governance. In this space many definitions of ‘good’ jostle for attention but we think there is wide recognition for:

  • How the CA network comprises fully independent local roots with an effective central service hub.
  • How it combines on the one hand the willingness of over 20,000 volunteers to train and give time to helping co-residents with, on the other, professional management at local and national level.
  • How its simple commitment to help anyone who asks, whoever they are, whatever their problem, fosters inclusion and diversity in the most natural way possible.
  • How its work exists to help literally everyone who occasionally will need information they can trust and is freely available. For example, Advice Guide online deals as thoroughly with consumer and legal problems as with the cost of living and social security.

More news and views from Citizens Advice Epsom & Ewell.

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