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History of Citizens Advice

In the beginning

The idea of a national information advice service in the UK emerged in the years between the two world wars. Complex new regulations and the impact of the First World War on families made the need for information and advice apparent. But nothing was actually started until war was declared on 3rd September 1939.

Mobile-CAB
Then the CAB Service mobilised its embryonic forces to allay the fears of those bombed out, drafted or evacuated. Within the first month, 200 bureaux had been set up in houses, town halls, libraries and churches. From the start they were staffed by a committed group of volunteers.

The need for advice and information was high. Not only were the problems of war brought to ‘Mrs B of the Bureau’ but also the every day problems which still have to be dealt with today. Bureaux stocked a variety of leaflets and explained everything from rationing and Red Cross messages to war damage relief. Some of the most complex problems involved finding lost relatives who had been in a bombed area.

The post-war years

Government funding was channelled away from the Service and alternative funds had to be sought. Charitable trusts provided support but the number of CABx had halved by 1953. Government funding did not start again until seven years later, due to the huge number of queries caused by the Rent Act.

CAB-in-1960s
By the 1970’s it had become essential for the CAB advisor to know about the actual regulations rather than acting as a signpost and rigorous training was essential. During the 1980’s inequality increased dramatically, unemployment doubled, and employment enquiries to CABx rose by 50%. With recession kicking in, debt and benefits enquiries reflected not only the rise in poverty, but also the increasing expertise of CABx in this area. Working with other national and local groups, CABx increasingly took the information they received from the thousands of clients they helped every year and used this in discussions with Government on the formulation of their policies. This social policy work of CABx is now a central part of the Service.

In the past sixty years, Citizens Advice Bureaux have dealt with more than 165 million enquiries. The 15,000 volunteer advisors who give their time and energy to help others now go through a rigorous and demanding training course. Each Bureau is funded by grants from their Local Authority, charitable trusts and donations from local businesses.

CAB in Swale

In the 1970’s Sittingbourne CAB was established with Faversham CAB as an offshoot. Sheppey CAB was also started around this time. Faversham CAB became fully independent in 1989 while Sheppey CAB later merged with Sittingbourne. In recent years it has become increasingly apparent that with the organisational and financial demands of providing a highly professional service in an ever-more complex society with ever-higher expectations, the future lies with a Borough-wide Bureau. Thus Faversham was reunited with Sittingbourne and Sheppey to form the CAB in Swale on 1 June 2004.

In line with the national rebrand, Citizens Advice Bureau in Swale became Citizens Advice Swale in 2015.

Even after all these changes, the principles of Citizens Advice is as true today as they were in 1939: confidential, impartial, independent, and free advice for all.