Promoting and developing social policy has always been a fundamental part of the work of Citizens Advice. Volunteer advisers and others have always sought to influence national social policy matters by completing Bureau Evidence Forms (BEFs) which highlight social injustices or poor administration within government departments, workplaces, or other agencies. These BEFs are submitted to national Citizens Advice and as a result form part of the evidence that drives social policy initiatives.
Over the past couple of years all local offices of Citizens Advice have been encouraged to take a more active approach to social policy making and get involved in research and campaigning. Here at Citizens Advice Diss, Thetford & District we continue to submit BEFs and have recently been involved in research into a number of areas of policy including:
- A survey of electricity/gas prepayment customers, highlighting problems with this payment method
- A survey of local job advertisements which showed up many inadequacies. This was part of a national project which has led to government departments changing the way they write their own job adverts.
- Welfare reform research – again part of a large national project
- Basic bank account research – highlighting the difficulties some people still have accessing these accounts.
- Research into local Housing Association tenancy agreements, looking particularly at the conditions laid down when tenants leave their accommodation.
Alongside these areas of research, volunteers and staff have been active in campaigning to promote energy saving, scams awareness, and to highlight the problems of pre-payment meter energy customers.
Creating BEFs and taking part in local research and campaigning continue to be ways in which volunteers and members of staff support an essential aim of Citizens Advice – to promote social policy and practice that improves people’s lives.