EIGHTY years after launching following the outbreak of the Second World War, a service offering a lifeline to 10,000 residents a year continues its valuable work.

Warrington District Citizens Advice Bureau (WDCAB) celebrated its milestone at The Gateway in the town centre, where it is based, last Thursday.

It forms part of a UK-wide network of charities providing free, confidential information and advice to assist people with a range of issues.

Now armed with 30 members of staff and 80 volunteers, it helps residents at risk of becoming homeless, as well as those encountering problems in welfare, employment, legal and consumer-related matters.

WDCAB assists around 10,000 residents a year and it estimates that it delivers £5 million in financial benefits to the borough each year.

Warrington Guardian:

Warrington District Citizens Advice Bureau celebrated its 80th birthday last Thursday

Chief executive Steve Cullen, who started at the organisation as a volunteer in 1995, says the ‘prevention agenda’ eases demand on other key services in the area.

He said: “If we were not here, people would need adult social care more, their incomes would plummet and if you are sick and disabled you might be forced into work that you can’t sustain.

“Benefits and debt usually vie for number one position (in terms of demand), at the moment it is welfare benefits because of welfare reform.

“Volunteers carry our frontline services and are absolutely crucial to us, we couldn’t assist anywhere near the number of people we do without them.”

Mr Cullen says the charity’s future funding is under threat because of austerity but he believes people ‘will always need us’.

Drop-in services are available at The Gateway from 9.30am to 12.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Conservative borough councillor Kath Buckley, who has been the chair of WDCAB for two and a half years, praised the team at the organisation.

Warrington Guardian:

Cllr Kath Buckley

She said: “The management is excellent and the volunteers are out of this world – it’s an honour and a privilege to be with them.

“They have enabled people to turn their lives around, they have enabled people to get the confidence to get a job again and to come through sickness and mental illness.”

Cllr Buckley says each era ‘brings something new’ and shared her views on universal credit.

She insists the system is ‘very good’ in theory but is calling for it to be improved.

“The Government has acknowledged the things that are wrong with it,” she said.

“You can’t really just get rid of it – what you need to do is improve it and the Government has realised that.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Marks, who is on the charity’s board, was also among those in attendance at the event last Thursday.

Warrington Guardian:

Cllr Ian Marks

Cllr Marks – who was the leader of the council between 2006 and 2011 – said: “This Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in Warrington is an excellent CAB – if you look at others in the country this comes out very well in terms of the ratings.

“With cuts to council services, you need something like this to fulfil the function that, perhaps, other people did in the past.

“Some people are extraordinarily dependent on it. It is a great service for the people of Warrington.”

Cllr Marks says money is ‘always a problem’ but believes the charity is doing a ‘good job’ of balancing its books.

He also believes, if the advice bureau did not exist, services would have to be met by the council or ‘not met at all’.

He added: “We used to have a CAB branch in Lymm and we are hoping, maybe in the future, we can get some sort of outreach service in Lymm.

“If it works in Lymm, perhaps, it could work in places as well.”