Help provided by Citizens Advice Bureaux saves Scotland’s economy more than £60 million a year, a new report has found.
The study found that advice people were given reduced the benefits bill, saved the NHS money, and also reduced the amount of cash spent dealing with homelessness.
The research, which was carried out by the Fraser of Allander economic think-tank, also revealed that advice from CAB in Scotland increased people’s incomes by £63m in 2011-12.
Margaret Lynch, the chief executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, said the figures were “quite remarkable”. There are more than 250 CABs across Scotland with staff and volunteers providing advice to those in need.
The study is thought to be the first to try to assess the economic impact of the help they give Scots and examined the five main areas the CAB provides advice on – benefits, debt, employment, housing and relationships.
The study found that advice from the CAB resulted in savings of £14.5m in health spending and reduced the bill for unemployment benefits by £12.9m.
It said that employment issues involving those seeking help could lead to a loss of economic output equal to £28.8m, but added advice from the CAB reduced this by £19.5m.
Help from the CAB resulted in £15.3m less being spent on dealing with homelessness.
The report stressed that it had used “conservative assumptions” and said the figures were “a minimum estimate of the impact of advisory services”.
It explained: “Advisory services clearly fulfil a need felt by many people. What is perhaps less well appreciated are the consequences that can arise for those seeking advice. Unsolved problems can create a range of adverse consequences, which involve a cost to society.”