A CITIZENS’ advice service is still going strong 75 years after it first opened its doors in Hartlepool.
Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau, in the town’s Park Road, opened in 1939 in response to the start of the Second World War along with others across the country to respond to the range of advice and information needs of people at the time.
Over the past eight decades, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau network across the UK has grown and developed and now provides advice, information and assistance from 3,500 different locations.
Staff in Hartlepool are celebrating their 75th anniversary and still provide free and confidential advice on a range of matters including personal debt, welfare benefit entitlement, employment law and rights, money advice, consumer advice, housing and homelessness and fuel poverty.
The Hartlepool CAB opened its first office in Hartlepool in 1939 and in the mid-1980s moved to larger premises in Victoria Road, before moving to their current base in Park Road in July 2000.
At the time it used a grant of £498,000 from the National Lotteries Charities Board - now the Big Lottery Fund - to construct the purpose built premises.
Facilities include seven client interview rooms and meeting room.
Bureau manager Joe Michna has been at the helm of the organisation for 26 years.
In April 2012, the bureau was on the brink of closure when it lost funding from Hartlepool Borough Council, but through the “determination and resilience” of the Trustee Board and the paid and volunteer staff, the organisation has managed to keep its doors open.
The organisation deals with an average of 30 to 35 new requests for help and assistance each day from members of the public.
Mr Michna said: “For the Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau, this is a moment to celebrate and also to reflect on.
“It is now 75 years since we first began providing advice, help and support for the towns’ residents and our service is in greater demand than ever before.
“In my years as bureau manager I have seen many changes in the advice needs of the town’s residents and we continue to try and respond to these needs.”
Mr Michna added: “We are still here today because of the support of our funding bodies and I would like to give particular thanks to the Northern Rock Foundation, the Money Advice the Big Lottery Fund and A4e for their continuing support for our services.
“On a personal note, I have hugely enjoyed my 25 years with the Hartlepool CAB and continue to relish the challenge of providing a professional advice service for the town’s residents.
“Despite the financial difficulties that we have been through during the last two years, we are still here and our service remains in very significant demand.
“We are well aware of the demand for various services that we cannot currently provide such as tribunal representation and telephone advice.
“However, we are seeking to find funding to enable us to provide these services.”
For information call Hartlepool Citizens’ Advice Bureau on (01429) 268242.