Claire Newport put it simply when she said of Citizens Advice Swindon: “We are here for everybody and we will help anybody.”

The chief executive was speaking to the Adver as the town branch celebrates its 80th birthday this year.

Swindon was one of the first branches of the national organisation to open when it was set up in 1939 in response to the outbreak of the Second World War.

Originally advisers helped people with the impacts of war, including issues such as rationing, displacement, overcrowding and locating missing relatives.

“I’m really proud of what we have done for people over the last 80 years,” said Claire who joined the charity 12 years ago.

“I love how we can change people’s lives and just help people walk out with a little bit less of a load on their shoulders.”

Last year the Swindon branch helped just over 9,000 people with more than 28,000 different issues, which these days include assisting with personal independence payment claims, universal credit issues, paying council tax arrears, and claiming and appealing employment support allowances.

“This is a 7.9 per cent increase between 2017-18,” said Claire.

Last year 31 per cent of Swindon enquiries were based around Universal Credit – the benefit for working age people who are on a low income or out of work – and 18 per cent around debt.

“That hasn’t changed really in the whole time that I’ve been here,” said Claire.

“It’s just got incredibly busier. The issues are the same type of things, but we’re seeing a lot more of it.”

She continued: “This is because things are just getting more complicated out there and people are needing a lot more help and support.

“We want anyone with a problem to come and get help, support and advice before things get out of hand,” she added.

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The branch initially opened in Faringdon House on Faringdon Road. It stayed there until 2014, when staff moved to Sanford House.

The team still has the original certificate which marked the opening of the centre.

CA Swindon also has outreach centres in Cavendish Square and Pinetrees Community Centre in Pinehurst.

“We are really proud that we are one of the first branches that will have opened in the country and the fact that we are still going,” said Claire.

“I don’t know that there are many charities that are still here after 80 years.”

The branch currently has 75 volunteers who handle most of the cases which come in.

“We couldn’t do it without them,”said Claire.

“They do a brilliant job every day, because they never know what’s going to come in through the door. That’s one of the exciting and maybe scary things that happens every day.”

Citizens Advice operates with the twin aims of providing generalist advice to help people access their rights, as well as campaigning on issues nationally to try and change policy and proceedings.

These include successfully campaigning against changes in court fees making it more difficult for poorer people to access justice in 1998.

It also complained to the Office of Fair Trading on the cost and effectiveness of payment protection insurance in 2005.

More recently in 2016 the government announced a ban on letting agents’ fees in England after years of Citizens Advice campaigning.

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“It is a brilliantly versatile service,” said Claire.

“It can change to whatever is coming in. It has changed and will change as we go on. That’s what’s fabulous about it.”

The charity is expecting to see the current increase in demand for its services to continue in the coming years.

“We see it continuing to get busier,” said Claire.

“People will always need advice about things and people like to have somebody to talk to face to face.

“We’re here to do that and we’ve been doing that for 80 years, so let’s continue for another 80 years.”