IPR Policy Brief - Proving the value of advice: a study of the impact of Citizens' Advice Bureau services

Peter Cressey, Susan Milner, Michelle Farr, Nicholas Abercrombie, Beth Jaynes

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Citizens Advice Bureaux provide a universal advice service to all clients who approach them. Typically, the problems for which they seek advice are debt, welfare and housing as well as employment, consumer and legal issues. Clients of a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) tend to be vulnerable, and demand for advice services has increased in times of austerity and public spending cuts. At the same time, advice services can be dependent on public funding and are facing cuts to their budgets. It is therefore more than ever necessary for advice services, like other voluntary and community sector organisations, to measure the impact of their interventions, calculate the return on investment by funders, and consider ways of improving service delivery in order to ensure value for money.

A study, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Bath (Nick Abercrombie, Peter Cressey, Michelle Farr, Beth Jaynes, Susan Milner) working in partnership with the Bath and North-East Somerset Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB-BANES), analysed the long term impact of advice. Some twenty volunteers from the Bureau also participated as interviewers and analysts. This was one of five linked projects, all looking at the economic and social value of social purpose organisations, coordinated by South West Forum and funded by the Big Lottery.

The study provides the fullest account of the long-term impact of CAB advice based on the largest range of outcomes to date. The study found a Social Return on Investment ratio (SROI) of 1:50 over a 5 year period for the 80 clients who participated in the research. That is, for every pound spent on CAB-BANES services, a value of £50 was generated. This finding reflects the importance of CAB advice for vulnerable clients for whom it makes a big difference and who have few or no other sources of help and advice. Whilst our sample was broadly representative of the CAB-BANES client population profile, caution must be applied before generalising these results further.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Bath
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


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