CAB’s roots go back to wartime England
Started as a service to trace missing relatives and explain new rules
I’ve always been interested in history. What has gone on in the past can explain a lot about what is going on now.
So I was interested to find out about the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and the links between how CABs started and how they run today. I found out the CAB has been around for a long time. Its roots are from wartime England and were established on the eve of the Second World War to help people cope with the dislocation, trauma and complexity that war brings.
The CAB website has an interesting article written about its history. It says initially CABs were places people could go to help in tracing missing relatives in bombed areas. There were many new wartime rules that were put in place at the time and the general public were expected to know and observe these rules. This must have been confusing to many, so people went to the CAB to help clarify them.
The article goes on to explain that after the war, there was still a need for CABs as things were changing in society with the growth of bureaucracy, the increasing rules around people’s rights and responsibilities, and a general increase in the complexity of everyday living.
By peacetime the CAB in England had become an essential community service and somewhere people could go to learn about their rights and obligations and also how to use this information to get the best outcomes. The Citizens Advice Bureau on Ponsonby Tce in Ponsonby was the first to be established in New Zealand — it opened its doors to the public in October 1970. It is still going strong and now there are more than 80 other CABs in communities around the country, from the far north to the deep south.
But like everything else in the world, the way CABs operate today is far different from wartime England or 1970s in New Zealand.
CABs must meet a set of standards to ensure the delivery of a consistent and quality service. Up-to-date information about rights and obligations in more than 300 subject areas and knowing about more than 35,000 local service providers are just some of the services CABs can offer. But, although the way CABs operate is vastly different today, it is still about helping people and offering the right advice to encourage clients to take action themselves.
So how do CABs do this and what are some common enquiries? Helping clients take action is a natural progression from providing options and information and many clients are able to follow-up on their own. But CABs are well aware that many people today may need or want that extra help and assistance. Some may just not be confident to do it on their own. Maybe English is a second language and they have problems communicating in English. Or a very common problem is that there are many people who are unable to use a computer or their phone is not adequate to do things like form filling. There are so many different forms that are an essential part of day to day life these days. Some can be very confusing and ambiguous. Forms such as tenancy forms, Work and Income applications, and immigration forms, are just a few examples. Clients may need assistance to access the right forms, clarify particular questions on them, or to check they have been completed properly.
If a client has not been supported by an agency they may well ask for support. Being able to support a client to take action when they are not able to do it themselves is part of the CAB service. There are times when a client may want assistance in writing a letter or making a phone call to an agency. This is always done with the client’s permission first. Advice is given on consumer rights. The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) includes anything that you have purchased, be it clothes, vehicles, or online shopping and all New Zealand businesses and people in trade have to meet their responsibilities under the CGA such as hairdressers or builders. Your rights mean that you are allowed to seek repairs, replacements or refunds when goods are faulty. It also means if you have a problem with a product or service, you can do something about it. There is a very good website about Consumer Guarantees Act which can be accessed www.consumerprotection.govt.nz. There is a lot of information on this website so if you want some advice CAB is here to help.
There are many enquiries around the subject of housing. Housing has become a well-known problem in New Zealand. One main issue is that there are not enough places for people to live. Emergency housing is a concern and CAB regularly have clients asking for help and assistance to find accommodation. And then there are the rights of a tenant. Laws change frequently and in May this year new tenancy laws were passed to provide more security for tenants in such things as tenure, rent increases and rental bidding. Last year, July 2021, landlords had to comply with healthy homes standards within 90 days of any new, or renewed, tenancy. The CAB website www.cab.org.nz has many informative articles around tenancy rights and obligations of the tenant and the landlord.
Other common queries answered by Citizens Advice include legal issues, relationship problems, neighbour disputes, and how to get in touch with local clubs and organisations.
CABs have a commitment to providing a free service. This service is completely confidential and totally impartial.
Put simply by CAB, “we help people to understand their rights and obligations, and give people the support they need to take action”. This actually is exactly the same as when CABs started back in war time England. The main difference is the amount of knowledge and how that knowledge is retrieved. CABS can provide information about almost anything, and if they can’t, they’ll put you in touch with someone who can. So if you, or you know someone who is in need of advice or guidance, contact CAB Napier.
iAnyone who wants to ask for advice can contact the Napier Citizens Advice Bureau in Bower House, Bower St, Monday to Friday 9am-4pm on 06 835 9664 or 0800 367 222, send an email on firstname.lastname@example.org., or visit website www.cab.org.nz