So, here come the Big Society – and what promised so much may in fact see the complete demise of one of the most important charities in the UK.
Actually, when I say ‘one’ I mean around 480 – because each individual Citizens Advice Bureau is a registered charity in its own right.
Yes – I said Citizens Advice Bureau – what? You didn’t know it was a charity? Strangely enough, not many people do and yet probably 90% of the UK population have at least heard of them and know someone who has needed their services at one time or another.
We all know that the current economic climate is going to be difficult, but the CAB is being hit from more than one volley. First, there is the local authority cuts which (at best) in most cases will mean another freeze in funding levels or (at worst) the withdrawal of some or all of the funding. This alone means that the CAB will struggle to maintain services at a time when more people will be calling on them. The other volley is from the Legal Services who provide about 50% of many bureaux funding through contracts for Legal Help. This is because the government has announced that this help will only be available where there is serious risk to life or liberty and legal help with benefit claims, employment tribunals and even debt cases will no longer be available. If this happens, the CAB will no longer be in a position to offer help and most of the paid staff will be facing redundancy.
So, there you have it – one of the most important charities in the UK appears to be on the road to nowhere…