A CHARITY which helps to support and set up other volunteer organisations in the Swindon area celebrated its 80th birthday yesterday.

Voluntary Action Swindon, of John Street, started in 1932 during the depression as the Swindon Council For Social Services to help unemployed families at a time when the modern welfare state was still unheard of.

Now it helps individuals and the state engage with the voluntary and community sector, and helps community groups to grow by providing advice on governance and funding.

Yesterday, trustees, staff, volunteers and other supporters gathered in the Pilgrim Centre, in Regent Circus, to mark the occasion. They listened to a presentation of the charity’s history by chief executive, David Wray, and tucked into birthday cake.

There was also the presentation of a canvas print of a mural depicting the former VAS office in Faringdon Road, which once appeared on a house in Iffley Road, near Bruce Street Bridges.

The mural was painted by Swindon artist Ken White and the canvas print was funded by the group supporter Pat Broderick, who ran in the Swindon multi-terrain run last year.

Mr Wray said: “The 80th anniversary is fantastic as evidenced by the people here who have contributed to the story of VAS over the years.

“And what a difference they have made to the people of Swindon.

“I think the future challenges would be increasing demand for our services at a time when funding is becoming potentially harder to find. VAS, which has about 90 member organisations and supports hundreds of local charities, is funded through a mixture of income generation and grants, including from Swindon Council.

Gavin Jones, Swindon Council’s chief executive, said: “What they bring really is a vitality and a real social commitment to the town, particularly at a time when so many more families are in distress.

“I think groups like VAS play such a vital role in helping people who are vulnerable and helping people who want to give something back into the town.”