Please, please read this before contemplating working at Kirklees Citizens Advice & Law Centre! Do not be fooled by the reputation of Citizens Advice, otherwise working here will be a massive shock.
The management is utterly corrupt and one manager's nickname is the 'Smiling Assassin', I kid you not. This manager knows just enough employment law to take staff right to the edge of appalling employment practice and they ensure that nothing they do will be evidenced.
The training, considering the advice you're meant to give clients, is wholly shambolic. You're given about two weeks to sit alone at a computer and read lots of information and take several multiple-choice tests. That's it, seriously. After this, you are expected to advise the general public.
Your write-ups of client contact will be scored 1 (bad) to 3 (good) and you will be expected to re-contact clients if you have not provided all the correct information. This scoring system is also used to demoralise staff, especially if they want to get rid of you (see below).
You are treated like a skivvy and with utter contempt, especially those who work on the telephones (staff can't even have their bags/phones at their desks in this department). You have no employment rights whatsoever and if you raise an issue you will be managed out of the place, pronto!
I worked here for almost three years and watched as over 25 people left, all disgruntled, angry and disappointed. That was over half of the enti
ProsSome colleagues are some of the most lovely, caring people you could meet.
Interesting but stressful workplace, moody managers
The organisation primarily consists of volunteers. Very few paid positions available, and when they do come up, they are hugely competitive, and existing volunteers are not given any priority or advantage over external applicants.
Also due to the nature of the work, the organisation puts a lot of pressure on volunteers to see clients, complete case write ups, and management can become very stroppy with volunteers, which at times can make it a depressing environment to be in.
The amount of pressure and work expected from volunteers gives a feeling that the organisation exploits its volunteers by expecting them to do a lot of challenging tasks, which would be expected from people in paid positions. Shifts can also be much longer than expected, and volunteers are not allowed to leave until they have completed all their case work. This just feels like an unnecessary stress when you think about the fact that you are slaving away for this organisation, and not being paid for it!
The work itself can be very rewarding and allows you to gain a variety of skills.
Overall I am grateful for all the skills I gained in this voluntary role, but not impressed with the management and the expectations that they place on volunteers. I stayed here for 3 years just for the experience, and but then got frustrated with it and left.
ProsFree travel, Free Christmas restaurant meals for volunteers
ConsVery demanding, stressful, time consuming work, shifts can be longer than expected, way too much responsibility for a non-paid position
I volunteered for approx. 16 hours a week. A typical day would be to get all the paperwork needed for the day prepared and available before the doors opened. There would be a rush of people, so keeping an eye on where people are in the queue was essential. Talking to the potential clients & explaining the system would come next. If they wanted help, I would give them the Gateway form to complete & confidentially offer help if they were unable to complete them for various reasons. I would take the completed form to the next available Advisor so they could be prepared & give the client a time to see the Advisor on that day or the following day. Once everyone was set up for an appointment, I would enter information onto the Petra system, until the end of the day. I learned to be discrete with help and developed more skills with people.
The culture was to be of service and I loved it. Although some of my colleagues were a lot more political than I, I enjoyed their enthusiasm to fight for what they believed. The hardest part of the job was dealing with the occasional abusive or drunken client but I loved to rise to the challenge and not take anything personally.
ProsRelaxed, cheerful environment
ConsPotential to move into a paid position was not met as I had to leave Cornwall.
The training was not 4 weeks, it was cut short to have you on the phones like any other call centre. The trainer didn't have many nice things to say about other staff members. There were no background checks or reference checks which surprised me, you only had to show your passport.
The team leaders isn't supportive, this us why many have moved onto another team within the organisation. The team has a high turnover rate and many have left the organisation. The current team have only joined throughout covid as everyone else has left.
It is unclear who your contract is with in regards to targets and stats. Constant pressure to get vulnerable customers off the phone. The software crashes all the time, it is a very archaic system.
The recording of absences is odd and it is difficult obtaining medical appointments. The working practices are that of any other call centre in Sheffield. They will ask you to add toilet breaks onto breaks and lunches. Even in the most ruthless call centres, there has been an option for personal time. Everything is about how times are monitored and there is no compassion.
In the first few weeks you will be encouraged to join the union. You will begin to understand why.
ConsAnother call centre, lack of support/compassion
First off, my work placement there is voluntary. I cannot pass judgement on any salary structures, hence why I have left a neutral 3-Star score on "Salary/Benefits"
The office layout is tidy, understandable, and any required books or fact-sheets can easily be found if you need guidance on any specific queries. The staff are friendly and easily approachable, which is ideal for anyone who might be nervous or inexperienced in working in an office environment.
The database layout is quite complex and does take some getting use to in terms of inputting and understanding certain information, especially enquiries from new customers. Show some patience however, and the rewards are a feel good factor of getting to grips with your assigned role as well as priceless office experience. The customers that come into the building are very diverse, and you do need to be open-minded when listening and taken action on the various enquiries that they make.
Overall this is a good place to work. If you do work here, it will likely be in a voluntary role. Nonetheless it is valuable experience in an office/admin environment. 4-Stars.
ProsWell structured in advice and guidance options
ConsUnpredictable (not entirely ideal for those strict on routine)
Gateway Assessor/ Advisor | Tottenham | 4 Jul 2018
A good place to work, learn and gain experience.
The Citizens Advice (CAB) has a good working environment.
The staff are very helpful and committed.
I found it quite challenging and exciting to work with clients from all backgrounds. One of the challenges was to work on urgent cases, such as eviction notice from a landlord, as there may be only a few days to apply for an injunction. The clients would come when the last warning letter has arrived, the documents would be missing, there may be a communication issue if they did not know the English language.
The hardest part of my job was to keep time limits, as clients would like to discuss irrelevant issues before coming to the point, as I was a counselor rather than an advisor, they like to discuss their personal family disputes for example, before explaining why they were here.
As advisors, it is very important to stay within the time frame which was 20 minutes per person.
The most enjoyable part is when I am able to find a quick solution to the query, that brings a smile to the face of my client, it's very satisfying experience that CAB had made a difference to a person's life by solving their issue.
ProsGood place to gain experience in a public service
I worked as a paid specialist for around 3 years, volunteer for around 2 before that. It's one of the most interesting jobs you could possibly have. A steep learning curve but you make a difference. I went from income maximisation to social security appeals and everything in between. There was a requirement to adapt to also cover statutory debt advice though I found that a bit too far if I'm being honest. There are plenty of things to get involved in including social policy so plenty to keep you occupied.
When there is finding a plenty it's an excellent place to work and the volunteers are exceptional. The only real down side for paid work is when funding starts to run out the environment can become toxic particularly if it is over a long period.
Great for someone starting their career if they've been a volunteer and have flexibility but not one for those who have a lot of on going liabilities (eg mortgage, young families etc) due to the unstable nature of funding. Management roles do tend to be permanent but they don't come up very often.
ProsVariety of work, opportunities to build on experience
I am a voluntary receptionist and i am enjoying the variety that each day brings and enjoying meeting and helping lots of different people, staff and visitors alike. I only work once a week as i volunteer elsewhere too. Unfortunately because the staff are mostly volunteers sometimes it can be understaffed. Working as a volunteer allows you to be comfortable in learning your job role, there is no pressure and it has really built my confidence. Typically i will book people in who come to access the service, input their details on computer system, filing, post, shredding, restocking and ordering leaflets, taking phone calls. Everyone is very friendly but the advisors and supervisor have to deal with some very delicate problems so sometimes it can seem a little stressed in the office, especially when the case is complex. The hardest part is turning people away when they need help because we are understaffed or busy. The most enjoyable part is meeting lots of new people and learning lots of interesting things.
The work is varied and could be enjoyable, management never give support to the staff, for example finding somewhere for breaks where we can let off steam.
The breaks have to be taken outside the building or else in the kitchen area where the waiting area for counsellors is. Three days a week the food bank operate out of the building and you can never get a seat as they seem to have staff sitting at every table.
Because the breaks are in an area open to the public we never get the opportunity to let off steam and I think this is why there is such a big turnover of staff in the call centre.
Coupled with this the management keep putting more onto the staff but still expect targets to be hit (15 minute call handling meaning 28 calls each and every day). This target is never easy to achieve and a lot of my colleagues fail to hit it at all while others only manage to hit it because they seem to send nothing to the cl, pointing them to other charities for help and putting very few notes on the record.
CAB is most excellent experience for anyone. A typical day at work will involve dealing with various clients on various issues, there are too many to list, there is no day the same. I have learned valuable skills and improved my portfolio on many levels. Management is fantastically helpful and friendly. Workplace culture is very professional and encouraging, everyone manages own workload there is no pressure although the job is responsible. There is no hardest part I can think of, it will depend on your background, some find the IT part challenging, others may struggle with handling the clients, but there is a lot of support provided and any obstacles can be overcome with practice. The job i rewarding and enjoyable due to the essence and purpose itself, most clients are grateful and the ability to serve the public and help people is what I found most rewarding and enjoyable.
ProsExcellent training, easy hours, amazing for improving skills and CV.
ConsMost positions are voluntary, but it is worth it.
Questions and answers about Citizens Advice
What questions did they ask during your interview at Citizens Advice?
Asked 16 May 2017
They asked about what I could bring to the organisation.
Answered 16 Dec 2018
About my commitment to volunteering and about previous experience. I'd worked in Oldham for CAB some years previously so they asked about that experience.
Answered 20 Nov 2018
How are the working hours at Citizens Advice?
Asked 12 Apr 2017
A good work life balance.
Answered 23 Jul 2018
Very flexible, I was able to choose from two half days to 1 full day
Answered 4 Jul 2018
What should you wear to an interview at Citizens Advice?
Asked 9 Apr 2017
Smart casual, but not jeans!
Answered 22 Feb 2018
Smart but casual. Suit and tie not required for men, They are more interested in you and your mind set rather than what you are wearing.
Answered 28 Jul 2017
How did you feel about telling people you worked at Citizens Advice?
Asked 3 Jul 2018
Answered 31 Aug 2020
Citizens advice is a resourceful place to work in where you get a chance to help people, develop your skills and knowledge base, update yourself with upcoming changes in the legal system and various government departments. Gain knowledge about how or what changes in the system effects the local people and in severe cases influence government decisions and policies.