Citizens' Advice

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
Stewart Dutfield
Marist College

People do not always know how to participate in what their society has to offer. It is not always easy to understand all the information and resources available, let alone how to act upon them. People may also need help in accessing resources and in fulfilling their responsibilities.


Resources are available to people, but how to use those resources may not be apparent.
For example, a resident of a street that is about to become an arterial route may not know how to engage in the planning process.

Even if people understand individual resources, they may not know how to best use resources in conjunction with others that they may not even know about.
For example, an immigrant may know about responsibilities under welfare regulations regarding finding work, but may not know of opportunities to study language that may be tied to employment opportunities.


Citizens' Advice acts as a central repository of information and a single point of contact for people who need that information. More than simply providing information, it helps people act upon that information in concordance with their needs and concerns.
Unless some form of automated agent can perform as well as a person, Citizens' Advice entails active mediation by qualified people. A website that consolidates information, such as reference 4, may be useful to clients but does not embody the essence of the pattern.
Citizens' Advice exists in countries with well-established social welfare structures. Much of the work concerns helping people to access resources to which they are entitled. At the same time, Citizens' Advice helps people to understand and fulfill their responsibilities.
Typically, Citizens' Advice takes the form of regional agencies (Bureaux) under a national umbrella. In this way, funding can be accessed at a national level while individual bureaux specialize in regional resources and needs.
The central nature of a Citizens' Advice service allows it to assist not only those who use information and resources but also those who provide them. To work toward providing information and resources that better address people's needs is an essential part of Citizens' Advice. Citizens' Advice Bureaux typically engage in social activism and setting social policy based upon the unmet needs that they identify through their contact with their clients. However, the extent to which this entails social activism is not intrinsic to the Citizens' Advice pattern. Rather, the nature of any organization's social activism is the concern of other patterns (###such as...)
The notion of a central support agency to mediate between clients and resources goes beyond the Citizens' Advice Bureaux established in, for example, New Zealand and the UK. The "user support" common in many organizations matches knowledge and resources with clients' needs. Accordingly, Citizens' Advice may apply at any level from a single project to an entire country.


Citizens' Advice provides a single service that matches a client's needs and entitlements to resources available in the community or society. By taking a problem to Citizens' Advice, anyone can obtain information and support to sustain a course of action appropriate to one's needs.
By observing the nature of client requests, Citizens' Advice can identify shortcomings in the resources available to people in the community or society.

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