Local Citizens Advice looks back on 62-year history

The cerfiticate officially registering Exmouth Citizens Advice in June 1960

The cerfiticate officially registering Exmouth Citizens Advice in June 1960 - Credit: Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice East Devon is 62 years old this month, having officially come into being on June 14 1960. The national Citizens Advice Bureau had been formed 21 years earlier; it was set up directly after the Second World War began, typically dealing with lost ration books, missing relatives, evacuations and prisoners of war. 

Each Citizens Advice is an independent charity. The East Devon branch originally opened in Exmouth on two days a week, renting space in the Sailors Rest building. There was little demand for its support until the severe flooding in October 1960 that affected nearly 1000 properties. Suddenly large numbers of people needed help, and this led to the town council providing funding for itizens Advice to rent space in the town hall and open five days a week. The Exmouth group later merged with Citizens Advice Honiton and became Citizens Advice East Devon. 

Nationally, Citizens Advice has evolved over the years, increasingly using technology to reach more people. It has also been a powerful campaigning organisation, fighting for the rights of housing tenants, employees and benefit claimants. 

During the Covid pandemic Citizens Advice played a crucial role offering information and advice on the support available, and the new schemes in place such as furloughing. The offices in Exmouth, Honiton, Sidmouth, Seaton and Axminster had to close, but trained volunteers continued offering telephone and online support from home. In 2018 the number of people seeking help from Citizens Advice East Devon was 4,247; in 2021 that rose to 5,717.  

Citizens Advice works out its financial contribution to the community by keeping records of debts it has removed and benefits and grants it has secured for people seeking help. In 2018 Citizens Advice East Devon ‘gave back’ £750 to the East Devon community; in 2021 the figure soared to £2,414, 795.  

As Citizens Advice East Devon marks its 62nd year, a limerick written back in the 1960s still evokes its ethos: 

There once was a knowing old scout,
Who said ‘If you’re ever in doubt, 
Ask the CA Bureau 
And if they don’t know 
They’ll tell you where you can find out!’ 

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Anyone with information or memories of Citizens Advice East Devon’s history is asked to contact their communications team by emailing media@citizensadviceeastdevon.org