To make sure that we provide the best possible service to all of our clients, the mission of our Citizens Advice Bureau, and that of all bureaux in Scotland, are guided by 12 main principles:
1. A free service
We provide information, advice and assistance, including representation, free of charge. We do not withhold our services from any clients seeking help because they are believed to be able to pay for help from an alternative source. Our services are advertised to the public as being free of charge to ensure that members of the public are not discouraged from taking advantage of the services for fear of incurring expense.
We provide confidentiality to clients. Nothing learned from clients, including the fact of their visits, will be passed on to anyone outside the Citizens Advice Bureau service without the express permission of the client. Although it is a function of the Citizens Advice Bureau Service to exercise a responsible influence on the development of social policies concerning matters which have been brought to light in the course of assisting clients, no details will be made public which might enable clients to be identified without their express consent.
The service provided by our bureau is impartial and open to all regardless of any subjective opinion as to whether or not the client is deserving. Citizens Advice Bureau advisers are trained to provide information solely on the basis of its potential usefulness to the client, i.e. information will not be selected to conform to any particular point of view. Representations made on behalf of clients will faithfully attempt to express the client’s personal intentions and points of view.
The service provided by our bureau is completely independent. The policies and practices of the service are decided solely by us at the Ross and Cromarty CAB. No other individual agency or individual, even if they are giving financial support or other aid to us, will influence the decision making process of our bureau.
We aim to make our services accessible to all by using premises which are centrally located, easy to enter, welcoming in appearance and open at times suited to local demand. Each bureau will actively recruit a range of volunteers from the local community who are capable of gaining the confidence of Citizens Advice Bureau clients. We will publicise the services we offer, especially in areas and among groups where the service is apparently underused. We will seek to extend services to meet the needs of those for whom the service is not presently accessible.
We judge the effectiveness of our activities by the extent to which they meet our clients’ needs. This is measured by the extent to which clients are helped to clarify problems and concerns, the accuracy and completeness of any information provided, the usefulness of any advice given and the appropriateness of any assistance provided to enable clients to carry out the course of action chosen. An effective service depends on efficient management and administrative practices and particularly on the way in which we make use of our most valuable resource, their volunteers.
7. Community accountability
The Scottish Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (also known as Citizens Advice Scotland) is an association of autonomous member bureaux, each democratically accountable to the community they serve. A bureau’s autonomy is only qualified by the conditions it must accept to retain membership of the Association.
Our bureau’s committee of management includes people elected by the local public at our Annual General Meeting or nominated by relevant local bodies giving financial support, organisations working in related fields and bodies representing potential clients.
8. Client’s right to decide
The service recognises that those who come to Citizens Advice Bureaux have a right to set their own objectives and to decide whether or not to accept the advice and assistance offered to them. We seek to avoid making assumptions about our clients’ objectives and identify all the options available to the client and present these options fairly so that the client can make a decision without any pressure.
9. A voluntary service
We operate on the principle that first and foremost ours is a voluntary service of advice and assistance provided by individuals serving their communities in a formal, unpaid capacity. It is also an essential complement to advice from statutory and other agencies. Citizens Advice Scotland advocates the employment of paid staff in member bureaux in order to maximise the contribution and effectiveness of the volunteers.
We seek to assist clients to help themselves. We help clients to understand their situation, to decide which course of action to adopt and to take steps themselves to tackle their problems. We aim to ensure that each client has the experience and satisfaction of self help.
11. Information retrieval
The Citizens Advice Bureau Service seeks to use the evidence collected through experience in dealing with enquiries to exercise a responsible influence on the development of social policies and services both locally and nationally. In gathering such evidence, bureaux will respect the client’s right to confidentiality.
12. A generalist service
We provide information, advice and assistance on any topic; no one calling at our Citizens Advice Bureau will be turned away because it does not deal with that type of problem. Because bureaux provide a generalist service, they can deal successfully with problems or groups of related problems that do not completely fit within the field of a single, specialist source of help. Where bureaux do not supplement this generalist service with appropriate specialisms, clients will be put in touch with specialists as required and where possible.