Citizen’s Advice aims to be a constantly evolving service led by the needs of its clients. Finding ways of giving more people access to free advice is one of the duties of our trustees and management teams, but another is making sure there is a service at all.
In an ideal world, advisers would help everyone who arrived at our Beaumont Fee office straight away, but resources are limited and people’s problems can be very complicated.
To filter clients who need general self-help information from those facing more complex issues, the seven CAB bureaux in the county set up Adviceline Lincolnshire (call 08444 111 444).
The telephone advice service gives clients greater convenience as they do not have to wait for long periods to be signposted to another organisation, or given an appointment to see an adviser on another day.
Volunteers man the service from 10am until 4pm every weekday, but it also gives 24-hour access to Citizens Advice Services as outside working hours — recorded messages can guide you to appropriate up-to-date advice. Advisers will also call back people not helped in this way.
The Adviceline national network was launched four years ago and continues to grow and develop. On February 21 this year, it reached the milestone of receiving its one-millionth call, proving its worth as gateway to Citizen’s Advice services.
A telephone service can be off-putting for some clients, but for others it can be a lifeline as work commitments, disability or lack of transport means there are many potential clients who just cannot get to our central office or outreach centres while others simply feel safer using this method of getting in touch.
We recognise that some of the problems our clients face have been exacerbated by the obstructive call centre system used by so many services, so it is worth pointing out Adviceline is run by people who want to help and if they cannot get the aid you need with your first call, someone will get back to you.
Calls to Adviceline are charged a 5p a minute, but mobile networks may be more expensive. Of course, CAB’s ultimate self-help tool is the website, which I push in almost every column because it’s so useful! Recent updates include tax calculation mistakes through the PAYE system; applying for Personal Independent Payments (PIPs) and pension advice to avoid.