Placement Spotlight: Citizens Advice

I would recommend other OOCDTP students to take the opportunity to do a placement. I gained valuable experience, both personally and professionally. And though challenging in its own ways, it gave me a welcome period to recuperate from study just before the writing-up phase of my PhD.

I organised a bespoke placement with my local Citizens Advice (CA). CA are an independent charity that operates nationally. Further local independent charities can then join as members. I joined with CA Brighton and Hove.

My full-time placement with CA Brighton and Hove was unprecedented. Typically, the organisation takes on volunteers who give two 3-hour sessions per week. Volunteers then complete 8 weeks of training before starting their work as advisers.

I was among a cohort of volunteers who took intensive 2-week training in September. This allowed me to start my work as a volunteer adviser the week after completing training.  

Working full-time, I was able to learn a lot in a short space of time. It was a success for me and for CA when I got ‘signed-off’ as an independent adviser before the end of my placement (advisers who are ‘signed-off’ are able to work with clients without supervision). It typically takes 1 year+ for a volunteer adviser to get to this point.

My typical working work was split into roughly 75% adviceline and 25% research and campaigns. Adviceline work involves advising members of the public over the phone, or via email, on a very broad range of queries. Mostly commonly, queries cover topics on housing, benefits, energy, and employment but the range of queries I dealt with went much further. The sheer breadth of topics meant the work remained challenging and rewarding throughout the placement.

The other 25% of my time was spent working within the research and campaigns team. I contributed to a Winter 22/23 Cost of Living crisis report due to be released in January/February 2023. I enjoyed collaborating with the team—mostly comprised of volunteers—on multiple aspects of the report. I prepared data to be included in the report. I prepared case studies on the effects of rising energy bills. And I worked on planning the overall structure and content of the report.

I’ve met some amazing people during my placement. The volunteer advisers come every week whatever the weather, some from afar, some whilst working, some whilst studying full-time degrees. The staff and volunteers are all friendly and supportive. I’ve seen the whole team work to help the most vulnerable in their community. I’ve been inspired by the kindness and respect with which they do it and their motivation to keep going.

I could not have hoped for a better placement. Thanks CA.