Charity Awards 2024

Citizens Advice

Sharing real-time data with other organisations to improve government policy

In its work helping millions of people each year, Citizens Advice gathers huge volumes of real-time data about the challenges people are facing in their day-to-day lives. Yet so much government policy does not seem to be responsive to need, or based on evidence. This disconnect has become even starker since the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

The charity decided that its data should be shared with policymakers, charities, the media and other stakeholders in a bid to expose policy failures, foster stronger, more evidence-based advocacy and influencing, and ultimately shape better policy and support for people in the future.

It launched its Data Insights monthly online events to showcase the latest frontline data collected from its interactions with clients, along with real client stories, to illustrate the impact of government policy and rising costs on household budgets. The data includes information from beneficiaries about their income, expenditure, housing, employment and household set-up, painting the fullest possible picture of their situation.

Deploying online webinar and booking platforms already used by the charity, these low-cost events soon gained prominence, regularly attracting an average of 2,000 attendees each month and reaching a wide network of stakeholders, including leaders in national and local government, the media, and the private and charity sectors. The events featured a publicly available data dashboard to provide real-time information which was also updated on the charity’s website.

The data insights and associated campaigning have already helped to drive changes in government policy, including increases to some benefits and stronger protections for those facing energy poverty.

The activity has also helped raise funding for the charity’s frontline advice services, with the data being central to adverts used for the winter fundraising campaign.

Charity Awards judge Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said that the Citizens Advice data was invaluable to other charities during the pandemic, as it created the narrative that underpinned the wider sector’s efforts to extract more support from the government to help it deal with the impacts. “It was their narrative that really brought in the rest of the sector’s narratives, through their regular briefings and all those things that they did. I think they gave everyone else a softer landing.”

Katie Ghose, chief executive of KIDS, described the activity as “genuinely innovative”.

“I particularly liked that they decided to harness and share the data in real time, warts and all, rather than waiting for analysis or perfection. That’s gold dust for everyone else who is using it too.”

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