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CAB Spain at the AGM/Conference of Citizens Advice UK

Posted in: Information Topic, Latest News, Myra's Blog, News Articles,
Author: Myra Cecilia Azzopardi
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With a hundred euros of donations and the rest provided by CAB team who answer questions on a daily basis on the ‘Ask for Advice’ section, it was off on a three hour flight to Manchester. Arriving in the twilight hours it was up early to get to the venue at the Manchester Central Conference centre for the early bird registration and networking session. This gave me a chance to meet and chat  with many of the staff and volunteers from CAB offices in the various towns in the UK. Many were surprised to find that there are CAB offices situated outside of the UK. Arrivals at the conference  included staff from Guernsey, Jersey, Rumania, Gibraltar, Czech Republic and Ireland.

The two days were filled options to sit in on sessions such as;  Looking at the trends which will shape the future. How people are changing and how advice will be provided in the future. Helping clients use digital services (the latter we already provide to our members). The changing governments and political outlooks now and in the future.  Casework skills for advisers. Managing a million things at once (CAB Spain advisers would know about that). Designing support for advisers now and for the future.  Funding in the future, where will it come from? We listened to speeches in the conference hall and it became obvious that the UK offices spend much time in successful lobbying which results in the UK government taking on some of their suggestions.

Lobbying is something that we do not have the time, volunteers or staff to do. It is important that we consider lobbying as there is much change needed in the way the consumer is treated in Spain. We could commence with the banks, telephone and utility providers with whom there is much discontent.   We avoid being political but the conference has shown me that we need to become more involved in this field to better our existence and that after all, politicians are shaping our lives and making our laws.

CAB Spain with members from the Citizens Advice International offices attended a separate meeting in the afternoon. In the evening attending the awards and dinner at the Principle hotel.  Taking it easy with the wine, we were all fresh for the following days activities.  I spoke with staff from Citizens Advice National who were keen at the thought of offering their services for training  staff for CAB Spain. Most wanted to come and reside here and understandably so.  If only we had the resources to take them up on many of their offers. If I learned something about resources, it is yet again the realisation that we are very much on our own at CAB Spain. We do not receive the financial support that UK offices do.

I was able to speak to the staff members at the Home Office stand. I communicated our concerns on residency rights post Brexit and other concerns about future healthcare, taking into account the UK teams proposal of  continuing to provide healthcare for state pensioners in Spain. I hope as promised that they will pass both our concerns to the relevant office and that we might! hear from someone. We are after all in the main, British citizens though residing in Spain.  I also spoke with staff and exhibitors on many topics that could concern us in Spain.

It was obvious to note the hard work and time that the UK CAB put in to assist their clients. If they did not exist, it would be a sad case for many citizens especially the more vulnerable of the community. Their strong commitment was notable and they all are dedicated to continue to fight to protect the consumer. I was very impressed at their resilience.

We need to find a way and resources so that we can set up training and support of our volunteers. The failing we have is the lack of staff to train those who have kindly offered us their services.

The experience was beneficial and I  will coordinate what I have learned with what we already have to see how we can improve our services with the very small team which runs CAB Spain.

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