Giving advice as the clouds of war gather

Citizens Advice service in the early days. Citizens Advice service in the early days.

Sunday, April 27, 2014
6:30 AM

THE Citizens Advice Bureau offers free, confidential, impartial and independent advice to anyone who requires it in England and Wales.

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During World War Two, the Citizens Advice Service used converted horse boxes as mobile offices, as these were able to access bomb-damaged areas where the need was greatest.During World War Two, the Citizens Advice Service used converted horse boxes as mobile offices, as these were able to access bomb-damaged areas where the need was greatest.

This year celebrating its 75th anniversary, the origins of the CAB service go back to 1939, just before the start of World War Two.

Once war was declared, the CAB service was ready to mobilise to allay the fears of people who had been bombed out, drafted or evacuated.

Within the first month, 200 bureaux had been set up and by 1942, 1,074 bureaux were to be found in houses, cafés, town halls, libraries, churches and air raid shelters.

Even horse boxes were converted for use as mobile offices as these were able to access bomb-damaged areas where the need was greatest.

The Citizen's Advice Bureau team of Ottery. Nevil Salisbury-Rood, Paul Batt and Pascal H Gillon outside the council offices where their office is based. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref sho 9946-16-14AWThe Citizen's Advice Bureau team of Ottery. Nevil Salisbury-Rood, Paul Batt and Pascal H Gillon outside the council offices where their office is based. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref sho 9946-16-14AW

From the start, bureaux were staffed by a committed group of volunteers.

Today there are 338 bureaux in England and Wales, providing free, independent confidential and impartial advice at 3,300 locations. All bureaux are independent charities, each being funded by local government and charitable giving.

Of the 28,500 people who work for the service nationally, almost 80 per cent of them are trained volunteers, acting as advisers, assessors, receptionists and trustees.

In East Devon, the Citizens Advice Bureau has offices and outreaches in Exmouth, Honiton, Seaton, Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary and Axminster. Run by a staff of 70 people, nearly 90 per cent of the staff are volunteers.

They provide advice and assistance on virtually any issue, including welfare benefits, money and credit problems, employment, consumer rights, housing, neighbourhood disputes, education and healthcare, immigration and residency, family and personal issues.

They won’t tell a client what to do but will give them the facts and options to enable them to make a decision that’s right for them.

Citizens Advice aims are to provide the advice people need for the problems they face and to improve, by its influence, the policies and practices that affect people’s lives.

In the period ending 2012/13, the Citizens Advice national service advised 2.1 million clients on 6.6 million issues.

In East Devon in the same period they helped more than 4,000 clients to deal with 11,000 issues. The CAB also has a self- help website www.adviceguide.org.uk which received 20 million visits in the last year.

Those requiring advice can either call in to their local bureau (see details below) or call the CAB Advice line 08444 111 444 (from a landline) or 0300 3300 650 (from a mobile).

Clients will initially receive a short assessment interview which will identify the most appropriate way they can be helped. This could be by giving the information needed to solve the problem, or by making an appointment to discuss the problem further – either in person or over the phone.

The Sidmouth CAB can be found at The Community Partnership, 15 Mill Street, EX10 8DF (01404 44213). The office is open on Monday morning between 9.30am and 12.30pm. The bureaux is wheelchair accessible.

In Ottery St Mary, the CAB is at the Council Offices in Broad Street, EX11 1BZ (01404 812252). The office is open on Tuesday afternoon between 1.30pm and 4pm. There’s wheelchair access, wheelchair toilet access and parking.

For more information, go to: www.citizensadvice.org.uk

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