Where it all began……
Yateley had a Care Group, with Father Carroll, Brian Lillington, Jan Berry and Judith Tocher being part of this group. Fleet had a Citizens Advice Bureau a couple of years earlier and the group agreed that this would be a real asset to the Yateley community and on the 1st of May 1982 Citizens Advice opened an office in Yateley. The address was The Portacabin, Public car park, rear of Royal Oak, Reading Rd., Yateley. We were a welcome addition to the community for those needing help and support for the problems they were facing and still are.
In that first year, a total of 790 enquiries were made most focusing on Social Security, Housing, Consumer, Family and Employment. The Fleet office was always on hand to help and support the Yateley office and the volunteers gained valuable experience working in the Fleet office for several weeks.
The training of the volunteers consisted of external Basic training for one day a week over a 16 week period with day courses in debt counselling, dealing with difficult clients and employment regulations. Staff meetings would contain selected topics such as case recording, supplementary benefit rules and case studies.
The next BIG event in the 15-year life of the bureau was in 1997 with the occupation of a new building near the original Portacabin. We were so grateful to Hart District Councillors and Officers that made this happen and to the community as a whole that contributed by making donations to add to the funding given by Hart District Council and those that gave in kind as we all pitched in to move into our new building.
We developed and delivered an advice service both to the settled travellers and those on the sites, Penny Hill and Star Hill. Although the funding was removed after some years we still continue to support many families from this community.
We continued to provide a home visit service for those who were unable to visit the offices, we gave advice from GP surgeries in the Medical Centre in Frogmore, Hartley Wintney Surgery and Hook surgery. We extended our work into local schools after being approached by Yateley school to provide sessions on money management for 16-year-olds, highlighting the need for young people to be aware of how much money they will have to live on if they leave school early or go on to University at some point. We discussed young people’s rights and responsibilities and were challenged by many questions: When can I get a tattoo?
We supported young people through a Youth Homelessness Prevention project and spent one night sleeping outside to raise awareness of the reality of being without a roof overhead. It was an amazing experience and we were rewarded by volunteers bringing us hot chocolate and cash donations given to us from the public as they passed by.
We attended the Aldershot County Court Help Desk alongside volunteers from Fleet and Aldershot CABs mainly to support clients who were facing mortgage possession hearings. These visits developed into an essential part of the volunteers’ training as they could observe the court proceedings and support clients attending court.
Citizens Advice as an organisation has had to accept change in all its formats, staff and volunteers move on, legislation changes frequently, training now is much more extensive and we have had to come to terms with information and advice being given, by zoom, emails, face to face and telephone but as always we adapt and we keep learning and developing our skills, through online training courses, external training and bite-sized training compiled and delivered by our Supervision team.
Team is a word that can be applied to many things but we demonstrate every day how important we are as a team and how much we learn from each other. We value all our volunteers, staff and trustees and continue to do so, but we never forget those pioneers from Yateley and Fleet that worked so hard to set up this amazing service and continue to serve our community.
We are grateful for the funding we receive from Hart District Council, Yateley Town Council and many different project funders over the years.
Every end has a new beginning and the building will remain as a Health and Wellbeing Centre and Citizens Advice will be part of that and we will also deliver information and advice throughout Hart in various locations. Our roots remain in Hart and they will continue to grow and develop in the coming years.
With thanks to Ouida Grant for sharing her wonderful insight of Citizens Advice – Yateley.