A VITAL charity in Yate that has helped and supported countless families and individuals is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Citizens Advice South Gloucestershire - which used to be known as Northavon Citizens Advice Bureau - was officially registered as a charity on April 4, 1974. 

At the time the organisation was located at the YMCA Hall in Station Road, Yate.

Its staff and volunteers provide free, confidential and impartial advice to members of the public from the age of 15.

The charity's office has been based near Yate Leisure Centre in Kennedy Way since December 1988. 

In 2003, its Yate office was the subject of an arson attack, when someone put a lit object through the letterbox, causing smoke damage throughout the space.

The charity helped more than 6,300 people in 2023 - its largest number of clients on record, and a 20 per cent increase on the previous year.

Gazette Series: Staff and volunteers during a recent at team-building event - photo by Simon MugglestoneStaff and volunteers during a recent at team-building event - photo by Simon Mugglestone (Image: Citizens Advice South Gloucestershire / Simon Mugglestone)

It now has plans to move to a bigger office in Badminton Court, Station Road by the end of 2024 and is currently fundraising for the costs of renovating the new property.

Organisers say this will allow the charity to double the space available to see clients face-to-face as well as increase space for its volunteers and staff.

It also runs sessions in Yate, Cadbury Heath, Stoke Gifford, Thornbury, Bradley Stoke and Emersons Green as well as operating a free telephone service.

Finance and admin manager Amanda Wood - who has worked at the charity for 26 years - said the most common issue she helps people with is benefits and debt advice.

“The charity is so important, providing free and impartial help and advice to all residents of South Gloucestershire,” she said. 
“We are totally reliant on grants and donations to provide our services. 

“Without these grants and donations we would cease to exist and without us people would have nowhere else to turn in times of need.”

Gazette Series: Citizens Advice South Gloucestershire offices have been located near Yate Leisure Centre since 1988Citizens Advice South Gloucestershire offices have been located near Yate Leisure Centre since 1988 (Image: Citizens Advice South Gloucestershire)

She added: "I think the main types of advice we give has remained constant throughout my whole time here, with benefits and debt still being the most common issues.”

Speaking about the arson attack Amanda said: “We suffered an arson attack on June 22, 2003. 

“The reception area and main office were the worst areas affected with black soot everywhere. 
“Some staff worked out of our then Thornbury Office for a couple of months while the office was renovated.  

“I think we also provided some drop-in sessions at Yate Library.”
Edna Cooper, aged 81, from Chipping Sodbury, has volunteered with the charity for 24 years including in Yate and in North Yorkshire

“A lot of people think Citizens Advice is run by the government and they don’t realise it is a charity,” she said. 
She added : “I can’t believe how small the office is. There were times when it was completely packed. People would be standing outside. 30 years on and it hasn’t changed at all.
“I’ve just always been interested in Citizens Advice and I just felt it was a very worthwhile thing to do.
“I would say the biggest change was when we brought in computers. 

“Before that, everything was written up by hand and we looked everything up in the paperwork. That was a big change.”