Community Wealth Building Through Advocacy and Advice

Citizens Advice Scotland highlight how their clients and volunteers can become human pillars of community wealth building across Scotland.

You’ve heard of the CAB, but what about CWB? Community Wealth Building (CWB) focusses on building and retaining value in the local community and has been delivered worldwide.

It is very similar to the Citizens Advice ethos of advocacy and providing advice to retain and enhance citizen rights.

Our 80 year old service has a lot to offer a community based economic development strategy for Scottish communities.

However, there has been little work around how greater advocacy for local change, advice provision on how to best mitigate current systems, alongside more involved citizens help prevent detriment, and therefore play a generative role in fairer and more just local communities.

There is a clear role for CABs to make the economy, society and environment fairer. They can increase well-being through early intervention via the involvement of citizens in delivering advice and advocacy for communities.

Locally based advocacy by local volunteers can also make systems fairer from the ground up by design through local people with lived experience.

The CAB network across Scotland could add real value to the fair markets or just economy dimensions in terms of the delivery and use of community wealth.

Further to this, our advocacy aim could also make systems fairer by design, implementing the prevention and early intervention ethos of the Christie Commission.

Last year we commissioned independent external analysis of the value of our advice which found that the network was worth up to £245million in net benefits to Scottish society. This includes aspects of preventative spend. For example the savings generated for health services by people avoiding negative outcomes associated with choosing between heating their homes and feeding their families, as well as the impact on the economy of money being unlocked for people.

Our volunteer-led service with twin aims of advocacy and advice could do the same for prevention and reduction of negative outcomes across a number of policy areas.

For example, Scottish CABs gave out just shy of 75,000 pieces of employment advice last year, and our advisers saw some really concerning cases during that time but also struggled to meet demand and offer person centred advice and support.

A pilot project in the South of Scotland has already demonstrated the potential for joint work with fair work employers and business  support agencies, providing training to small employers as a Fair Work and Human Rights initiative, upskilling bureau volunteers to support citizens and supporting existing fair work employers to continue to improve and collaborate.

Getting local advocates in communities to campaign and highlight the systems needing change in Scotland will secure and retain community wealth.

We feel that there is a real opportunity to deliver a specific Scottish based approach including advice and advocacy for social change in the forthcoming first in the world Community Wealth Building legislation set to go through the Scottish Parliament.

Enabling all to access free, just and fair advice across a number of topics and advocating for system change through citizens lived experience could see our clients and volunteers become a human pillar of community wealth building across Scotland for all communities.

George Eckton is Director of Advice Services at Citizens Advice Scotland

This blog originally appeared in The Herald.

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