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

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


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.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2017
EventBritish Sociological Association Conference - Manchester
Duration: 4 Apr 2017 → …


ConferenceBritish Sociological Association Conference
Period4/04/17 → …
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Citizens Advice services as buffer between inflexible state agencies and disadvantaged individuals: a realist investigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this