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Charity's report lays bare the crises experienced by thousands of islanders

Charity's report lays bare the crises experienced by thousands of islanders

Friday 28 May 2021

Charity's report lays bare the crises experienced by thousands of islanders

Citizens Advice helped islanders to settle more than £4 million pounds of unaffordable debt last year, as the charity supported 4,000 people facing a wide range of issues in 2020.

The charity's annual report for 2020 also highlights the effects of the pandemic for thousands of islanders who struggled financially and personally through Guernsey's spring lockdown.

Covid-19 presented the paid staff and volunteers with a dilemma - not only did it increase demand for their services, it also made it more difficult to deliver them. 

The General Advice service dealt with 11,875 issues from 3,850 clients across the year, figures that CEO Kerry Ciotti describes as even more significant given that the charity was forced into reduced operating hours for a period last year. 

"The range of clients’ issues underlines the complexity of people’s lives, which was echoed in the average duration of client interviews - 49 minutes - an increase from 2019. The majority of advice was given over the telephone, which was steady at 60%."


Pictured: The charity's research and campaign resources are very limited, however a Citizens Manifesto was produced last year highlighting four key areas identified by Citizens Advice Guernsey. This was emailed to all the States election candidates, posted on their website and social media pages ahead of the island-wide election. 

The Money Advice service saw numbers fall due to the pandemic, a pattern that was mirrored by Citizens Advice UK. 

Despite that, there were still 2,298 enquiries on money-related issues including banking services, insurance, pensions, credit and liability for debt. 

Citizens Advice dealt with 1,606 specific debt and money issues in 2020. 66 clients who were seen by the Money Advice team received a full financial restitution negotiation service on £4,372,175 of unaffordable debt.

The largest amounts of debt were secured and unsecured loans (£3.4m) with credit/store cards, family loans, income tax and other debts also common. 


Pictured: Specific social policy issues of current concern are identified by the charity's advisers in January each year and any that cannot be identified using the normal classification system are added to the case recording system. The above shows some of the issues flagged up in 2020.  

Mrs Ciotti said: "The main underlying causes of indebtedness when recorded was job loss and relationship breakdown, both at 16%. In addition, poor budgeting, low income and business failure all at 12%.

"Worryingly there were at least 67 dependent children living in these households affected by the deprivation caused by unaffordable debt. 

She anticipates seeing an increase in the need for this service once the full economic impact of Covid-19 surfaces.

Meanwhile, the quality of the charity's support was lauded, with 96% of clients describing their overall experience of our service as ‘positive' and 96% likely to recommend the service to someone else. 

While helping thousands of islanders with their problems, Citizens Advice experienced financial woes of its own. 

Citizens Advice reported a loss of £39,354 - compared to £14,873 in 2019 - driven by reduced donations, with the Friends' of Citizens Advice shop closed for three months because of lockdown.  


Pictured: The charity received almost 12,000 enquiries from islanders in 2020. It says the ‘Health’ category was artificially elevated during 2020, as all covid related enquiries fell under that banner. 

In the face of falling supply and demand, Treasurer Jonathan Dell said the Friends had still donated £60,000 during 2020, generated by selling goods in the shop, as well as funds raised through flag days and raffles. 

The Employment and Social Security Committee maintained its grant of £27,010, while the charity received pro bono professional support from a number of private companies. 

More than anything though, Mrs Ciotti reiterated that the charity's volunteers are the foundation of Citizens Advice's role in the local community.  

"Management can only take us so far: without the volunteers, there would be no Citizens Advice Guernsey," she concluded. "In 2020 our volunteers gave up 15,000 hours of their free time for Islanders who had turned to us for help.

"If they had chosen to submit a bill, then Guernsey would have been £281,852 out of pocket! With the ever-increasing demands of compliance and processes, it is frankly remarkable that the volunteers continue with their enthusiasm and commitment to improve the lives of islanders."

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