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Our partnership with Citizens Advice Manchester

17 July 2019

Our customer-led Ethical Policy underpins everything we do, and that includes the products and services we offer our customers.

Since 2016, we’ve partnered with Citizens Advice Manchester (CAM) to support our Personal and Business customers with specialist advice to resolve root causes to financial difficulty. Our pioneering referral programme funds a dedicated resource at CAM, who works with our customers to receive a holistic assessment within 48 hours, identifying the correct support needed.

So far, we’ve referred over 1,364 Co-operative Bank customers to Citizens Advice with over 3,300 problems, meaning that over £1m of debt has been managed through this service. For 54% of our customers using the service, their problem was resolved at the first point of contact, and some customers were referred for specialist debt advice or to their local Citizens Advice office.

What is Citizens Advice and what do they do?

Citizens Advice, formerly known as the Citizens Advice Bureau, is an independent charity. They aim to provide the support people need for the day-to-day problems they face, and to improve the policies and practices that affect people’s lives.

Is the service confidential?

Yes, Citizens Advice Manchester offers free, confidential, impartial and independent advice. There are many way to get in touch with them including by phone, email, Skype, Facebook Messenger, webchat, or in person at one of their drop in centres.

Supporting vulnerable customers through financial difficulties

CAM offers debt management advice taking each person’s individual circumstances into consideration; this may include other bank accounts, benefits or pensions. They’ve been able to support many of our customers with a wide variety of issues, like those in the stories below.

Case Study 1: Samia is a single parent with two young children. She had multiple debts including rent arrears as her landlord was attempting to evict her from her home of over 8 years. We referred her to CAM who investigated this further, helping Samia receive local specialist housing advice. Her local Citizens Advice Bureau were able to prevent her eviction, and helped agree a payment plan with Samia’s landlord, meaning she can stay in her home.

CAM continues to support Samia with her debts, and she is currently working with a specialist debt adviser to find the best solution for her circumstances. Samia felt relieved when she was referred, as she said otherwise she would not have known where to turn for the help and support that she needed.

Case Study 2: Jennifer lives with her two young sons, we referred her to CAM as she had fallen behind with some of her debts and wanted advice. As she had recently started to receive Universal Credit, Jennifer was struggling to manage her monthly income and to afford food for herself and her children. As Jennifer had recently left an abusive relationship, this was the first time she’d managed her own money, and she was keen to move to a different area as she was afraid of seeing her ex-partner.

CAM worked with Jennifer’s local Citizens Advice Bureau to arrange a food parcel for her. They then helped to agree payment plans with her creditors, and gave her budgeting advice for the future. Citizens Advice also helped with housing applications in new areas, so Jennifer could feel safe to rebuild her life with her two sons.

You can find out more about how to get in touch with your local Citizens Advice here.

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