First opened in 1974 and for the last 15 years, the local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) enjoyed a prominent High Street location. Earlier this year due to financial pressures, the CAB opened its doors at its new home based out of the newly built Eden Centre (Four Elms Road). The CAB rely on grants and donations to be able to continue the service it provides to the local residents of Edenbridge and Westerham and this move has meant a very positive new beginning for the bureau.
Jill Eyre (Manager) and Graham Coldman (Chairman) explained the role of the Bureau within our community and the benefits of being located at The Eden Centre.
For those of you not familiar with The Eden Centre, it houses a number of other community organisations under it’s roof, including HOUSE (for young people), Edenbridge Library, Families and Social Care Services and The Eden Church. This makes it easier to refer people to other agencies when appropriate.
So what exactly can your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau help you with? Well, the answer is just about anything. The staff will do whatever they can to help or find something out for you.
About a third of the enquiries coming into the Bureau over the last few years has been to do with welfare benefits due to the number of people being pushed into unemployment and debt from the country’s economic crisis. There has also been a rise in the number of people suffering mental health problems due to increase in stress, so never has there been a greater need for the CAB than now, but of course running such a service comes at a price.
Without the support of the John Coldman Charitable Trust and Great Stonebridge Trust, the Bureau wouldn’t be here today. The Friends of the CAB also manage to raise an additional £7k per year from organised activities such as quiz evenings and fashion shows. They are also supported by other local organisations such as the Edenbridge Rotary Club, Edenbridge Town Band, Edenbridge Bonfire Society, West Kent Housing, St John’s URC (Marsh Green), EdenARA, Edenbridge Town Council and Sevenoaks District Council.
Of course it’s not just about having enough money to run the service but having enough volunteers to deal with the enquiries, whether in person at the centre or over the phone. As with so many organisations, volunteers are always required and will be trained by the Bureau. Each day the office deal with approximately 25 enquiries, either by telephone or face-to-face appointments.
As with so much information these days, there are more services to push people to find answers online. Of course not everyone is computer literate and the Bureau provide a big role in helping those who are less able in the community.
There is a national website for the CAB which provides a multitude of information. It’s very user friendly and doesn’t use jargon – www. adviceguide.org.uk.
The Bureau is currently open 4 days a week – Monday to Thursday from 10am to 3pm for appointments and 10am to 4.30pm for telephone enquiries. You can contact the Bureau on 03000 422 888 (calls cost no more than a local 01732 call) for advice.
If you would like to help in anyway either financially or through volunteering, give the Bureau a call as they would be delighted to hear from you.