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Citizens Advice celebrates 80 years of helping people

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Newbury branch was one of the first volunteer-led bureaux to open in 1939

CITIZENS Advice West Berkshire (CAWB) is celebrating 80 years of the national charity.

The Newbury branch of Citizens Advice – established in 1939 – is one of the oldest in the country.

The first volunteer-run bureaux opened in 1939 and dealt with problems relating to the loss of ration books, homelessness and evacuation.

The Berkshire branch closed after the war, but was revived in 1963 as the Newbury Citizens Advice Bureau.

Now called CAWB, it has operated from various locations, including Newbury Library, the old bus station at the Wharf, the former town hall and magistrates’ court in the Market Place and an office in Bartholomew Street.

It moved into its current premises in Broadway House in 2011.

CAWB chief executive Sue Mackie said: “Citizens Advice was formed at a time of national emergency and its continued existence some 80 years later is testament to the ongoing need for a free, impartial, independent and confidential advice service to help people navigate life’s complexities.

“No one else sees so many people with so many different kinds of problems and that gives us a unique insight into the challenges people are facing today.

“Citizens Advice can take a holistic view of clients’ issues as we work across many issues from housing and homelessness, to employment advice, benefits, debts and consumer issues.

“Often a client comes to us with a series of interlinked problems, seeking advice on finding a way forward.”

In 2018-2019, CAWB helped 2,229 clients with 11,539 issues and helped them be £402,000 better off.

As part of its cost-cutting measures in the 2018-19 budget, West Berkshire Council slashed its contributions to the CAWB by a third, from £120,000 to £80,000 per annum. As a result, the organisation has been increasingly forced to rely on public donations.

Mrs Mackie says of CAWB’s structure: “From its origins in 1939, each local Citizens Advice was established as an individual charity belonging to the national Citizens Advice network.

“Each local Citizens Advice has to raise its own funds in order to survive.

“Unfortunately, many people don’t realise that CAWB is a charity rather than a branch of local or central government.”

Donations can be made at www.citizensadvicewestberkshire.org.uk/support-us/ and via The Good Exchange.

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