The origins of the modern Citizens Advice service can be traced back to the Betterton Report on Public Assistance from 1924. This report recommended that advice centres should be set up to offer members of the public advice to help them with their problems. During the 1930s, as preparations and plans were drawn up for the possibility of war, the role that the voluntary sector should have was determined. The National Council for Social Service (NCSS) called a meeting in 1938 in which plans to establish ‘Citizens Aid Bureaux’ were devised in the event of war.
The first 200 bureaux opened on 4 September 1939, four days after World War II 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. These included the tracing of missing servicemen or prisoners of war, evacuations, food & soap rations, pensions and other allowances.
Many wartime 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. Before then, the national organisation was part of NCSS (National Council of Social Services) and most bureaux were run by the local CVS (Council for Voluntary Service).
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 2,550 community locations in England and Wales, run by around 279 individual Citizens Advice charities.
The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Rt. Rev. John Waine opened Mid Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau in April 1981 at the time he said “The ripples of the work of the Citizens Advice Bureau will go far out into society.” In the first year of opening the bureau dealt with more than 2,300 enquiries. Today it deals with over 10,000 a year.
Citizens Advice Mid Suffolk is an operating name of Mid Suffolk Citizens Advice Bureau which is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee. The Bureau belongs to a nationwide network of Citizens Advice Bureaux.