A History of the Helensville Citizen’s Advice Bureau

The Annual General Meeting of the Helensville Citizens Advice Bureau will be held on 12th August, 2015 @ 10am
in the Meeting Room at the Helensville Service Centre (beside the Library) Commercial Road Helensville.
Our Guest Speaker this year is Charm Torrance, Manager of the District Health Trust who will talk about her work with the Trust and her connection to the Te Whare Oranga’s vision of fostering community health and well being.

A History of the Helensville Citizen’s Advice Bureau
The notion to set up a formative Citizens Advice Service (CAS) was first raised through the Kaipara Community Support (Comsup) group, which is a group of helping professional agencies, and local services representatives covering the Helensville and surrounding areas. Problems faced by low income families, solo parents and the unemployed, financial problems, the cutting back of transport and telecommunication services were just some of the many issues local people had to face with no particular local agency in which to go to for help and direction. Comsup duly undertook research necessary for the proposed establishment of such a service, which culminated in a Public Meeting being called in November 1990 to gauge public support. As a result an Establishment Committee was formed.
Premises and funding were a priority and with the support of Rodney District Council Helensville-Kumeu Community Board and the use of the unused offices at the rear of the old Helensville Borough Council building was secured, Rodney District Council being the occupiers of the front offices at the time. Monetary donations were forthcoming from generous supporters as well as donations of office furniture and the Helensville Lions Club generously donated the first year’s telephone rental. A grant of $2000 from the Helensville-Kumeu Community Board helped to pay initial costs.
Volunteers and supporters frantically carried out a range of carpentry work, wall papering, painting, shelving and the telephone line was installed. A vast information data base and resource system took many weeks to set up and following volunteer recruitment, a 9 week Basic Training Course was implemented in April 1991 with over 25 trainees participating.
With 27 trained volunteers including Coordinator/Trainer and Information Officer, the Helensville Citizens Advice Service opened its doors to the public on 5th June 1991 with an official opening ceremony, which was distinguished by a welcome, and speeches from members of the local Maori communities.
Several weeks after the opening the Helensville Citizens Advice Service held it’s first AGM, disbanding the Establishment Committee and electing a Management Committee, and twelve months after opening the Service applied for and were granted Preliminary Membership status from the NZ Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux.
By 1992 the Coordinator received a small honorarium, later followed by the Information Officer and finally in 1997 funding enabled payment of wages for these two positions on a part time basis. By the end of 1993 Helensville Citizens Advice Service had been granted full Membership status from the NZACABx and was able to legally call itself a “Bureau” having complied with and adhering to the stringent membership standards as set by the NZACABx. Several months later the Bureau became an Incorporated Society.
Helensville Citizens Advice Bureau was instrumental in the establishment of Income Support Services in Helensville, which initially began in 1993 with twice weekly visits to the Bureau by ISS. This enabled Beneficiaries the luxury of being able visit Income Support Services locally instead of having to find their way to Henderson the closest ISS location. By March 1995 Income Support Services had moved to their own premises and were offering a full time agency in Helensville, which continues to operate to this day, now as Work and Income.
In 1993 a job board was also set up within the Bureau so that employment seekers could view the current job vacancies from sheets faxed up initially twice a week but later on a daily basis from NZ Employment Services. If they found a job suitable for them to apply for they could telephone the employment service to arrange to visit the Henderson Office to discuss the job.
By 1994 NZACABx required all Bureaux still working on a manual information retrieval system to become computerized which meant all local, regional and national information resources were available to the volunteers from a huge computer data base. This set a majority of volunteers on a huge learning curve as this was a whole new way of information retrieval for clients and vastly different from the manual method and most volunteers had never touched a computer in their lives let alone operated one!
The Bureau has had 3 Association trained and accredited Trainers in its ranks over the years which has enabled the Bureau to train new volunteers locally most years or whenever there are sufficient Trainees. The Bureau has Volunteers who are Justices of the Peace and they offer their J.P. services from the Bureau every week. A “one-off” 20-minute free legal advice service is another invaluable service the Bureau has been able to offer its clients.
Suitable volunteers come from all walks of life and nationalities. A countless number of men and women have been trained over the years and the Bureau has a high turnover due to the volunteers moving out of the area, becoming employed or general family circumstances. Long term friendships have formed and the teamwork and comradeship has been outstanding over the years, and it works two ways for the Volunteers, for not only are they helping their community, but equally they are getting a lot out of their work.
Over the years the Bureau has taken part in Santa Parades, attended with stalls at the Helensville A & P Show, celebrated its 1st, 5th and 10th birthdays and has an annual Awareness Week, as do Bureaux nationwide. Volunteers form the glue that keep our communities together, create the facilities and the support networks that improve the quality of life and create opportunities for us all. The Helensville Citizens Advice Bureau continues in its endeavours to offer free, confidential, non-judgmental help, assistance and direction in all and every aspect of life and living in a small community. Seventeen years on it is timely that the Bureau is about to move to a more prominent position within the community with a shift to a new home which will close the door on one part of its history and open the door to a new chapter.
This report was written in April 2008 by one of our original volunteers and we are enjoying being in our new premises on the main street of Helensville. These premises are more visible to the Community that we serve.

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