Citizens Advice conducted an equality and human rights gap analysis to help understand its clients’ greatest unmet needs, and identify future strategic priorities. It reviewed:
- the extent to which people from all protected characteristics under the Equality Act (for example, men as well as women) in England and Wales were denied equality in worth, dignity and rights
- whether these were significant inequalities and significant infringements of human rights
- which groups or infringements did not have enough support available
And analysed where Citizens Advice could most usefully play a role. This informed decisions on strategic priorities for the service’s equality strategy.
For example, reviewing the human right to freedom from abuse showed that, given national incidence rates, many clients must have past or present experience of domestic abuse. Although they were coming to Citizens Advice for help with other problems, they were not getting help for this abuse anywhere. Advisers were often unaware that abuse was part of the picture, or did not know what to do.
Gender violence and abuse (GVA) was made a strategic priority. Citizens Advice worked with GVA specialist organisations to develop a programme for its advisers to support clients to disclose abuse and be offered help within the normal advice process. This included training on how to respond, advice to give, and options for next steps – including referral to specialists when needed.
This increased the GVA disclosure rate from 0.3% to over 20% – and improved the overall quality of advice.
Citizens Advice reflected this priority in its wider organisational strategy. To maximise impact it embedded it across other areas of activity. It updated internal policy for staff and volunteers experiencing GVA and produced new guidance on domestic homicide reviews. It improved the security of its data recording system. And ran a public-facing campaign to raise awareness of domestic abuse.