Citizens Advice Suffolk West was formed in June 2011 following consultation between the five separate bureaux in West Suffolk, when three Citizens Advice bureaux merged to manage resources strategically. Our offices are located at Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Brandon and Mildenhall.
All Citizens Advice offices are separate independent charitable companies and so a merger is never straightforward, but we have emerged stronger and more effective as a larger local Citizens Advice, with more choice for clients in how they access advice, and the ability to offer a wider range of casework, as well as varied opportunities for volunteers – which now number 116 – across the four offices. We have gained from the combined experience and best practice of our supervisors, all of whom we have retained in their original offices. We regularly review how we provide our service, both for quality and access, and in order to ensure that we manage fluctuations in funding.
The origins of the modern Citizens Advice service can be traced back to the second World War, and the first 200 bureaux opened on 4 September 1939, four days after the war started. Many of these initial Bureaux were run by ‘people of standing’ in the community, for example the local bank manager. By 1942, there were 1,074 bureaux in a wide range of improvised offices such as cafes, church halls, private homes and air raid shelters. Mobile offices also became important in ensuring that people could access advice. Many of the issues dealt with during that time were directly related to the war, tracing missing servicemen or prisoners of war, evacuations, food & soap rations, pensions and other allowances.
Many war time bureaux closed at the end of the war, although it was apparent that there was still a need for the services that had been established. A particular problem was the chronic housing shortage in the years immediately following the end of the war. In the 1950s, the funding was cut and by 1960 there were only 415 bureaux. In 1972, the Citizens Advice service became independent.
In 1973, the government funded NACAB, the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, to enlarge the network. In 2003, this changed its name to Citizens Advice (in England and Northern Ireland) and Cyngor ar Bopeth or “Advice on Everything” (in Wales).
Today advice services are delivered from over 3,500 community locations in England and Wales, by around 350 individual Citizens Advice charities.