Why the CAB was established
The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has its roots in war-time England.
Bureaux were established on the eve of the Second World War to help people cope with the dislocation, trauma and complexity that war brings.
Initially, bureaux were places people could go to for help in tracing missing relatives in bombed areas or learning about all of the new war-time rules and regulations that were put in place at the time and which the general public were expected to know and observe.
But the need for the bureaux did not diminish when the war ended. Things were changing in society with the growth of bureaucracy, the increasing codification of people’s rights and responsibilities, and a general increase in the complexity of everyday living.
By peace time the CAB had become an essential community service; somewhere people could go to learn about their rights and obligations and also how to use this information to good effect to get the best outcomes.
In the decades since the war the CAB service has been replicated in other parts of the world and it has been adapted to suit the different societies in which it has been established. The Citizens Advice Bureau on Ponsonby Terrace in Ponsonby was the first bureau to be established in New Zealand – it opened its doors to the public in October 1970. It is still going strong and now there are 91 other Citizens Advice Bureau sites in communities around New Zealand, from the far north to the deep south.
The CAB in New Zealand has changed and developed over the years so that it remains relevant and useful to the public. In 2006 our organisation went through a significant and exciting process of strategic thinking and planning to create a pathway to connect where we are now to where we want to be in the future. This was a comprehensive, organisation-wide process with the direct involvement of over 500 people within the organisation. The process has resulted in some big plans and exciting changes for the CAB in New Zealand to make our service better, and more accessible, than ever.
2007/08 saw the Citizens Advice Bureau in New Zealand embark on the implementation of our Digital Strategy Programme, a project to develop a new technology platform to support the CAB service in every bureau throughout the country and to provide the general public with on-line access to the CAB service.
To ensure the success of the Digital Strategy Programme – to know that we captured all of our information needs and designed the most effective technology system possible – we also undertook an internal review of our standards, policies, and systems.
We prioritised the review to focus on three core areas of operation within the CAB: our Membership Standards, our Training, and our Information and IT systems. The timing of these Operational Reviews was set to coincide with the implementation of our Digital Strategy Programme. The Reviews have helped us to ensure that we invested in the technology which would meet our needs and expectations and those of our clients, the general public.
With the completion of the reviews in 2009 and the Digital Strategy Programme in 2010, and the subsequent changes and improvements which have been made and planned for in terms of our standards, training, and information and IT systems, the Citizens Advice Bureau has placed itself in the position to be at the forefront of promoting knowledge and understanding in New Zealand communities of today and of the future. This is a new era for the CAB in New Zealand.