The Citizens Advice Bureau celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2014 and for the volunteers it is a time to look back on the years of changes.
First set up in 1939 to tackle problems such as homelessness, and locating missing relatives or prisoners of war during the Second World War, the service has provided help and support to those in need ever since.
Lynn’s branch has helped 4,800 individuals and families with around 13,900 problems in the past year.
Chief executive Steve Cheshire, who has been with the branch for three years, said: “The fact that more that so many people have been helped by our services is a really good feeling.
“Maintaining that level of support isn’t easy, but we couldn’t have better partners in the borough council and county council – their support is fantastic.
“We see a lot of problems with benefits, debt and a lot of people being sanctioned or need Food Bank vouchers. The majority of these people work but are on minimum wage and a low number of hours. These are not shirkers, they are hard working people.
The free, confidential and impartial advice provided by volunteers at the Bureau is available to everyone and after Norwich, Lynn’s branch is the busiest in Norfolk, with outreach services across Downham, Hunstanton, RAF Marham and Terrington St Clement.
The Lynn branch, which is found just off the Tuesday Market Place, at 26 St Nicholas Street, has 40 members of staff, including 33 volunteers who provide impartial advice, man the advice line and work as gateway assessors.
Rosie Stafford, social policy co-ordinator, said: “When you first come in, you are given a 20 minute appointment with an advisor. It’s about empowering the individual to solve the problem by providing them with the right information or contacts.
“We have debt and welfare specialists and provide life skills services. We figure you can fill out a form for someone 100 times and they learn nothing, but if you give them the life skills to do it, it will make life easier for them.”
The Bureau’s latest project is a community hub, a lottery-funded scheme that sees advisors working with King’s Lynn Area Resettlement Support (KLARS) to bring their advice to migrants.
Mr Cheshire said: “It’s important to remind people to get help now, not to wait until red letters start coming through the door. It often takes the bailiff’s letter to make them seek help. By that point it is a lot harder to sort the problem.”
To mark the anniversary, a campaign called Advice For The Future has been launched. Supporters are being called on to make a pledge to support the service. The pledge can be signed online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/adviceforthefuture
Lynn’s branch is open for drop-in appointments from 10am to 2pm Monday to Thursday.