AS this year's Volunteers' Week comes to an end, we turn the spotlight on one of Oxford's most essential volunteer hubs – our Citizen's Advice Bureau.

After a party on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate and thank all the city volunteers, some of them told us about the challenges of their work and what they get out of it.

"I VOLUNTEERED at Newcastle Citizens Advice for five years and have now been at Oxford for a year: the challenges are the same, but Oxford has particular problems with housing and difficulties with employers.

"It has been good to find out more about Oxford people and to be able to help them with their problems."

So said Maria Peacock this week about her work at Citizens Advice Oxford.

Bushra Begum, one of the bureau's youngest volunteers at 23, said: "I enjoy volunteering here because it's about working with real people who are dealing with real issues such as housing, rent, utilities and relationship problems.

"These are things that affect real people on a daily basis but are often overlooked."

These are just two of the volunteers at Oxford's CAB who give up their time every week, free of charge, to help fellow residents navigate some of life's most challenging and complex trials.

Among the topics the volunteers give advice on are debt problems, housing, benefits and employment issues, from finding a job to workplace bullying or harassment.

In a city like Oxford, which regularly tops national tables as being one of the most unaffordable places to live and has a persistent homelessness problem, the CAB acts as a fourth estate: a non-governmental institution which provides sound and reliable legal advice.

It is the fact that CAB is such a national institution which makes it all the more remarkable that it is staffed largely by people who have other jobs, who give up to 18 hours a week out of the goodness of their hearts.

This year alone, the 80-strong Oxford team have given advice to more than 6,000 people, helping out which a staggering 17,622 problems.

It is statistics like that which made the managers want to throw the party on Wednesday afternoon at their St Aldate's offices so thank a massive 'thank you' to their invaluable team.

Oxford CAB director Al Bell said: "Our trained volunteer advisors are the backbone of our service, but the support of volunteers working in administration, as trustees or promoting our campaign work is equally valuable to our success."

Oxford training officer Jen-Lou Marks added: "Our amazing volunteers make a huge difference to people’s lives.

"They give us their time to help people through the trickiest of problems or those who just need to speak to us to get advice. Every contribution is equally valued and needed."

To round off a week of celebrations, today the team are welcoming Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds into the office, who will hear firsthand from volunteers about their work.

Unsurprisingly, the city team are also using Volunteers' Week to appeal for new helpers.

And, despite the obvious pressures and challenges of the role, the best advertisement are the volunteers themselves.

Anna, who has been with Citizens Advice Oxford for three years, said this week: "I get a tremendous sense of achievement from volunteering here. It is really interesting and worthwhile and it can be loads of fun too."

Becky, who started just three months ago, added: "It is an incredible learning opportunity.

"Every day is an education on what is happening in our community and what rights people have. It is also a fantastic organisation to be part of."

Mrs Marks said: "There’s a volunteering role for everyone and it brings many rewards – it’s a great way to meet people and learn new skills.

"If you’d like to help people in your area and can spare a few hours, we’d love to hear from you and if you decide to join our team, you will be part of a wonderful group of people and will be well looked after and supported."

The Oxford CAB will be holding its next recruitment event on Monday, July 2, at the St Aldate's office from 2pm to 3.30pm.

In the meantime, anyone interested in finding out about volunteering with Citizens Advice can email or go to