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Advice services primed to open their doors to young people

Posted: 10 August 2010

Coinciding with the launch of new guidelines for making advice services young person-friendly, The Cabin, the UK's only local Citizens Advice Bureau targeted solely at young people, announces that it has just dealt with its 20,000th enquiry - less than two years since it opened.

Download The Cabin leaflet [2.1MB PDF]

Three recent research reports have confirmed that young people are one of the least likely groups in society to find their way to an advice centre when they have a social welfare problem.[i]

Although most 'mainstream' advice agencies report seeing tiny numbers of young people, the experience of The Cabin in Stockton-on-Tees confirms that this is not for a lack of need. Since The Cabin opened in September 2008, following intensive development support from Youth Access, the number of young people helped by the CAB service in Stockton has increased fourfold. What's made the difference is the tailored style of service delivery.

Youth Access - the youth advice and counselling network - today launches Opening Your Doors to Young People: practical guidelines for making advice services young person-friendly, enabling any advice agency to follow The Cabin's lead in closing the gap between need and provision.

Barbara Rayment, Director of Youth Access, says:

“We believe that all young people need access to youth information, advice and counselling services that can offer a holistic approach to meeting a range of often inter-related personal, practical, emotional and health needs. Sometimes, however, young people need help from more specialist advice services. Opening Your Doors to Young People represents our attempt to distil our expertise in young people's advice-seeking behaviour into practical help for agencies who primarily work with older adults but want to improve the accessibility and standard of service they offer to a younger client group.”

Research evidence published by Youth Access indicates that failure to get social welfare advice has a disproportionate adverse impact on young people, while getting advice has a greater beneficial effect on young people than on other age groups.[ii] Yet resources for advice remain disproportionately focused on the least needy middle aged group.[iii] The service characteristics of 'mainstream' advice agencies act as a significant barrier to access for young people and these services also struggle to achieve good outcomes for their young clients.[iv]

Barbara Rayment adds:

“The current failure to meet young people's advice needs has been conservatively estimated at £1 billion per annum. Targeting advice services better at young people therefore needs to be an essential element of any attempt by local advice providers or by the Government to improve the cost-effective use of resources and, crucially, the outcomes they achieve for the most vulnerable clients.”

Opening Your Doors to Young People has been endorsed by the major UK advice networks representing 'mainstream' providers - Citizens Advice, AdviceUK and Law Centres Federation.

Janine Browne, manager of The Cabin, says:

“We now work with around a thousand young people with complex problems a month - and often see their lives transformed by advice. It's scary to think what would have happened to our clients if we hadn't been there. I would urge any advice agency to look at Youth Access' guidelines to see what steps, however small, they could take to improve their service.”

The Opening Your Doors to Young People guidelines have been developed by Youth Access as part of the Working Together for Advice project, a partnership project funded by the Big Lottery Fund in which the major UK advice networks have come together to provide support to front-line advice agencies. Hard copies are available, price £15, by emailing

To complement the guidelines, Youth Access has also developed a half day Opening Your Doors to Young People training course that can be delivered either in-house or to a cluster of local advice agencies. A pilot was described by a CAB manager as a “really excellent course. Very practical, very fact-based - perfect for me!” For further information, contact

Download Opening Your Doors to Young People [993kB PDF]

Other recent reports on advice published by Youth Access include:

  • The Advice Needs of Young People - The Evidence (2009).
  • Young People's Access to Advice - The Evidence (2009).
  • Rights within Reach: Developing Effective Legal Advice Outreach Services for Young People, Youth Access & Law Centres Federation (2009).
  • The Impact of the Recession on Young People - and on their needs for advice and counselling services (2009).
  • With Rights In Mind: Is there a role for social welfare advice in improving young people's mental health? (2010).
  • Under Strain: How the recession is affecting young people and the organisations which provide advice, counselling and support to them (2010).
  • The Youth Advice Workforce: Now And In The Future (2009).
  • Getting Your Advice Service Ready for Commissioning (2008).

All reports are available to download free from

[i] Sources of data showing young people are less likely to get advice:

  1. Based on data from the Civil and Social Justice Survey (CSJS), Youth Access has calculated that 1.35 million young people aged 16-24 fail to get any advice with their social welfare problems each year. (Young People’s Access to Advice - The Evidence, Kenrick, J., Youth Access, October 2009.)
  2. The Legal Services Research Centre has reported that only 41.4% of 18-24 year old respondents to the CSJS obtained advice for their civil justice problems, lower than any other socio-demographic group, with the exception of people describing their ethnicity as Black. (Knowledge, capability and the experience of rights problems, Balmer, N.J. et al., Plenet, March 2010.)
  3. The Ministry of Justice has reported that although 16-24 year olds make up 15% of the general population, they comprise only 3% of users of legal services - a far greater under-representation than exists for other disadvantaged socio-economic groups. (Baseline survey to assess the impact of legal services reform, Finch, S., et al., Ministry of Justice, March 2010.)

[ii] Evidence of impact is contained in The Advice Needs of Young People - The Evidence, Kenrick, J., Youth Access, July 2009. NB: More detailed evidence on the outcomes and impact of advice work with young people will be published by Youth Access later this year.

[iii] Evidence of the unequal distribution of resources: Youth Access has reported that whilst a quarter of rented housing problems and a third of homelessness problems are reported by 18-24 year olds, housing legal aid funding is inexplicably focussed on 35-49 year olds, despite their housing needs being far lower. (Locked Out: the prevalence and impact of housing and homelessness problems amongst young people, and the impact of good advice, Kenrick, J., Youth Access, 2007.)

[iv] See Locked Out (see note iii above)

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