We have some excellent voluntary and charity organisations in Swindon, offering help, advice and support across a wide range of issues. However, accessing all their valuable services hasn’t always been straightforward, especially for people without the internet. But last year a new initiative changed that for the better. One of Swindon town centre’s historic buildings, Sanford House, began a new lease of life as the new Swindon Advice and Support Centre. It brings together a number of organisations under one roof, providing a one stop shop for a huge wealth of information and expertise. This week I had another opportunity to visit the excellent facilities there and meet some of the people who are doing such great work for the community.
The transformation of the building began in 2013, with £350,000 of funding jointly from Swindon Borough Council and the Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group – part of the NHS. It’s a great example of how public bodies and the voluntary sector are now working more closely together to provide services within tighter budgets. The voluntary groups helped design the Centre and also manage it – something which in the past would have been done by the Council.
The Centre opened last summer, but new groups have been moving in all the time and I still think not everyone is aware. So, for the record, the organisations at Sanford House include: Voluntary Action Swindon; Richmond Fellowship; Derventio Housing Trust; Developing Health & Independence Swindon; Swindon Advocacy Movement; Wiltshire Law; Healthwatch Swindon; Swindon Carers and Swindon Mind. Then of course there’s the Citizens Advice Bureau, accessible via the College Street entrance. The Centre is generally open from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday, although times for the CAB vary slightly. It’s also important to note that other organisations use the Centre’s ‘hot desk’ facilities, so there may be even more than this list shows. Apologies if I have missed out any specific groups.
The Centre has been a huge success and is a great example of the public and voluntary sectors coming together and making clever use of limited funds to provide a valuable service. I was struck by my visit on Monday how well it’s working. It’s another example of the strength of the Swindon community which we are so fortunate to have.
Finally, a word about my next surgery. It’s this Friday 20 February in the Brunel shopping centre, but in a new location: the first floor arcade outside House of Fraser, next to the car park. I’ll be there from 11am to 12pm. No appointment is necessary but time is limited, so if you have a more complex case it would be better to contact the office on 01793 533393.
(This article was originally posted in the Swindon Advertiser on 18th February 2015)