Citizens Advice services as buffer between inflexible state agencies and disadvantaged individuals: a realist investigation

Hodgson, Philip, Dalkin, Sonia, Forster, Natalie, Lhussier, Monique and Carr, Susan (2017) Citizens Advice services as buffer between inflexible state agencies and disadvantaged individuals: a realist investigation. In: British Sociological Association Conference, 4-6 April 2017, Manchester.

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Abstract

Individuals in receipt of advice services may be those experiencing disadvantages and difficulties navigating state systems, which are often viewed as providing inequitable resources. The inability of individuals to access and understand such systems can play a significant role in widening inequalities. However, there is a limited amount of evidence on whether and how advice services are effective in addressing needs and inequalities in such marginalised
individuals.

This paper draws on client interviews from an ongoing realist evaluation of the impact of a Citizen's Advice (CA) service on health in the North of England. In exploring participants' experiences of the advice received and its impacts on lifestyle, behaviours and needs, CA was depicted as acting as a buffer between clients and the state. Without this support, official agencies were perceived as a deliberate barrier to accessing resources individuals were entitled to and additional contact viewed as likely to result in increased scrutiny and the removal of existing support. Bhabha's Third Space (2004) facilitates understanding of this relationship by characterising it as a contact zone (Pratt, 1991) between the state, as dominant hegemon, and client, as individual and marginalised Other. CA advisors, drawing on elements of trust (Hurley, 2006), enter into this space on the client's behalf, allowing this power dynamic to be redrawn and clients' needs to be better considered within individual, social and political contexts. This points to the importance of buffering linkages between state agencies and marginalised individuals if inequitable social arrangements are to be challenged.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: L300 Sociology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > School of Health, Community and Education Studies > Public Health and Wellbeing
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Natalie Forster
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2017 08:31
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2017 08:31
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/31083

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