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The First Seventy Years: Chapter 69 - U3A And Citizens' Advice

Eric Biddulph becomes deeply involved in Huddersfield University of the Third Age activities.

In 1998 I joined the University of the Third Age. I enrolled for photography. I also had a go at French but my eighty years old teacher decided at Christmas that she had had enough and 'threw in the towel'. Later, I joined the men's keep-fit class but after a few weeks decided it was not for me; there were too many back-related exercises which I felt it best to avoid.

By 2002 I had been visited upon by a U3A committee member to become a co-opted member of the management committee. The following year found me being voted in as publicity officer. My election occurred in the year before the planned Twentieth Anniversary Celebrations. I was soon to find myself a key member of the organising sub-committee for the events to be held in Huddersfield Town Hall in March 2004. The day was a huge success. Many new applications to enrol on courses were received and encouragingly, new tutors were recruited, so vital for the survival of the organisation.

Over 2000 people avail themselves of its services, a major contributor to living a good life amongst retired Huddersfield residents. Perhaps its only weakness is its predominantly white middle-class profile. Despite efforts by myself and many others it has proved difficult to attract a broader cross-section of society.

It was around Easter 2001 that the Citizens Advice Bureau had an' Open Day'. I had been thinking about some form of voluntary work since I ceased to be the Samaritan treasurer in 1998. I applied to become a trainee advisor in the Huddersfield Bureau. In June 2001 I began my long period of training. Every Monday for the next eight months I spent studying the many workbooks which made up the initial training programme. Alongside this were six visits to the Leeds Regional Training Centre. Here I was trained in interview techniques with particular emphasis on client empathy.

Back in Huddersfield I was regularly sitting in with experienced advisors as a 'fly on the wall'. In February 2002 I interviewed my first client under supervision. After a short while I began to conduct interviews on my own. The range of subjects which regularly arose was wide but the single most frequent type of enquiry related to state benefits.

Two years on and I was still struggling with some categories of enquiry. The move to recording client cases on to a data base caused me some anguish and eventually defeated me by the end.

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