Language no barrier to seeking advice

Sarah Clifford
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Things make more sense when people are speaking your language.

This week is Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) Awareness Week and they are celebrating diversity and multiculturalism within their service.

Mid Canterbury co-ordinator of CAB, Sarah Clifford said, ‘‘we are working on building our diversity capabilities with some volunteers currently learning Te Reo or Sign Language.’’

One volunteer speaks fluent Dutch.

At CAB, they are committed to making sure their service is inclusive of everyone and that language is not a barrier to people accessing their service and information about their rights and obligations.

They know that life can be difficult in New Zealand when English isn’t your first language – navigating information, addressing issues and getting things done can be hard and stressful.

CAB provides a safe space for everyone where they can help people access the information, advice, support and services they need – regardless of what language they speak.

Language should not be a barrier to getting the information and advice you need.

CAB supports thousands of people across the country in many different languages other than English, and volunteers come from many backgrounds, cultures, and countries, with diverse skills and experience.

It is a nationwide, but locally-based, community organisation that provides free, confidential, independent information and advice.

CAB helps people to know and understand their rights and responsibilities and to find the community services they need, the service is for everyone and is there to help with any questions people bring to them.

CAB have access to two language resources.

They have set up a new language support system to improve clients’ access to the service in their own language.

This service is available wherever you are in the country and can be accessed by calling CAB or visiting your local bureau.

Nationally, CAB are fortunate to have many volunteers who are multilingual and can help clients in their own language.

Their system allows the bureau you get in touch with to find who is available to speak with you in your language and to connect you.

This enables people to interact with the service directly in their preferred language.

Part of the language support system also includes access to telephone and video interpreting services, which complements their own nationwide pool of multi-lingual CAB volunteers.

The majority of people accessing the services in Mid Canterbury reflect the demographics of the area.

Over half those seeking advice in the last financial year in the Ashburton District were New Zealand European.

Many of the inquiries come from those working with a client seeking information on behalf of that person.

During the last year the three major areas that those accessing the local service have inquired about have been in regards to consumer issues – good and services, employment – contracts and conditions and family issues – access, custody and guardianship.

The bureau can help with anything, including questions about – housing and tenancy, neighbours, consumer law, employment, education, legal rights, income support, immigration, family issues and relationships and many more.

Locally CAB would like to continue to increase their diversity of volunteers and welcome people from all walks of life to volunteer with them.

Currently there are 15 volunteers locally from a range of backgrounds, ages, gender and abilities.

Being a CAB volunteer is ‘‘80 per cent listening’’ Sarah said, but the ability to be non judgemental, research answers and use a computer are also necessary skills.

People access the service because ‘‘it’s impartial and factual, it’s not friends and family giving advice, and the information being given is current.

‘‘Having lots of good services in town to refer people to make our job easier,’’ Sarah said.