Advice bureau appeals to the community

Bedford Citizens Advice Bureau - Gillian Grimes with clients.
Bedford Citizens Advice Bureau - Gillian Grimes with clients.

An organisation which has been helping the people of Bedford since the wartime era is making its own appeal to the community.

Bedford Citizen’s Advice Bureau is offering residents the chance to learn news skills and use their time for the good of the community as more volunteers are needed.

The bureau, based on the corner of St Paul’s Square near the Tourist Information Centre, has been helping the people of Bedford since the early part of the Second World War.

In those early days, volunteers played a key role in dealing with people’s problems relating to lost ration books, homelessness and evacuation and then soon after, the debt that came with conscription and the subsequent loss of earnings.

In Bedford today, many of the issues that the bureau sees have a similar theme – benefits, housing, employment and debt.

For some people, the extensive information and guidance on the CAB national website at

http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/ is enough to help them take the necessary steps to solving their problem.

Training supervisor Diana Stone said: “Advice may take the form of a guide on what to do and how, such as choosing a gas and electricity supplier, downloadable fact sheets such as those dealing with unfair treatment at work, or interactive content such as the online budgeting tool.

“For some people, talking through problems face to face is the best place to start, and CAB commits to helping people resolve their problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice.”

You don’t need to make an appointment - Bedford CAB is open to members of the public living or working in Bedford borough. Opening hours are between 9.30am and 3pm on Mondays to Thursdays, and between 9.30am and 12.30pm on Fridays.

Diana said: “Clients will be seen by a trained volunteer, known as a gateway assessor, who will listen carefully, identify priorities and provide the information needed to help determine their next course of action.

“This may be a referral to one of Bedford CAB’s specialist advisors who give in depth advice to individuals regarding finance, welfare, debt, housing and employment.”

There is a variety of volunteering opportunities available at Bedford CAB and the biggest need is for gateway assessors.

Diana said: “This role comes with full training, support, the opportunity to develop new skills and the reward of seeing first hand, that help given can sometimes be part of a life changing process for people in the local community.

“If you are open minded and non-judgemental, IT literate, can listen to people, have good written and spoken English and want to be part of a team that is making a difference, then you are exactly the sort of person the CAB needs to help ensure that the service to Bedford residents continues for many years to come.”

Volunteers will spend some months training and need to be able to commit six to eight hours a week on an ongoing basis.

The CAB is also busy influencing policymakers. Diana said: “Bedford has a lively and active research and campaign team picking up and investigating local patterns and feeding the results of their research into campaigns at both national and local levels.”

For more information email admin@bedfordcab.org.uk or call in the bureau at 7a St Paul’s Square, Bedford and ask for a volunteer application pack.