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This Department is leading work aimed at making the provision of information, advice and education to consumers simpler and more effective. The organisations at the focus of this work are Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland. These are the umbrella organisations for the citizens advice bureaux that have a unique track record in providing advice to citizens, often those who are vulnerable or come from deprived communities. This includes consumer advice. In 2009/10 Citizens Advice helped 2.1 million people with over seven million problems at 3,500 locations in England and Wales.
This Department is also involved with Consumer Direct (CD) which is an online and telephone advice service funded and managed by the Office of Fair Trading. It handles approximately 1.7 million telephone calls and emails annually often helping those who are vulnerable or come from deprived communities.
Although at the national level CD does not specifically target communities, individual CD centres work with a range of community groups to give targeted advice and information. 40% of the contacts handled by CD are from people whose annual household income is less than £20,000.
This Department is also discussing with the consumer organisation Which? about making wider use of its online information and thereby reducing the costs to the taxpayer of providing such information.