What is the point of justice if in practice no-on can access it?
Islington residents haven’t had a Citizens Advice Bureau for 5 years. Now there is a phone service, which informs the caller that no appointments can be made, since there is no centre to go to. However, since there is now a phone-service, Islington residents can’t go to neighbouring citizens advice bureaus because that would frustrate the funding.
Why do we need a walk-in centre?
If you need to make an urgent application, for instance, for Bar Pro Bono, this cannot be done over the phone, yet can’t be done in person because there’s nowhere for the Islington resident to go.
Furthermore, the telephone services are manned only during certain hours and if you can’t get through immediately, there is no waiting function. So in practice, you can’t get through to anyone.
CAB’s are closing
But Islington’s not the only one. In fact, a new CAB will be opening on 4th April, so Islington may in the long run be luckier! Citizens Advice Bureaus receive government funding, but are essentially run as a charity. The cuts mean many – like Birmingham Citizens Advice Bureau – will be closing completely.
When people are losing their jobs, and employers are cutting corners, the need to know your rights as a citizen and have someone you can turn to for help when life feels like it’s dealt you the worst hand is more important than ever.
When the Citizens Advice Burreau is gone, who will help? Charity Legal Advice Centres are already hugely overstretched, so it’s doubtful they’ll be able to pick up the massive work load left by the closures. Will people still be able to defend their basic rights to wages, equal pay and debt advice?
Sound like madness? Is your local citizens advice bureau closing? Are there areas of British democracy that get your goat? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments box below.