The Swindon Advocacy Movement has settled into a new home after moving for the first time in 24 years.

The charity packed its bags and emptied its old office near the Savoy on Regent Street to set up shop inside a disused old building that used to be home to the Riflemans Arms pub.

Independent advocate Colette O’Sullivan said: “It’s been a real team effort to get the place ready before we moved over. My mother made the curtains and we had hordes of lovely volunteers decorating the building which had been empty for four years. Intel, Nationwide, Zurich and Excalibur paid for the paint, their support has been amazing, what great community spirit.

“We provide support to those living with autism, mental health issues, learning disabilities, dementia, as well as children with special educational needs. Many of these people are socially isolated and we want to promote change and inclusion by creating a contemporary welcoming place.

“To realise this vision, we have transformed a rundown, uninviting old Victorian house into a warm, vibrant space that is accessible to everyone. Our sincere hope is that SAM’s House goes on to become a much utilised Swindon asset that other charities can use, there are plenty of rooms available and it’s a lot nicer than our old office, though we do miss the big apce of the front which was great for activities.”

The charity has fought for the rights of vulnerable people for more than two decades by helping them understand information, make decisions and gain control over their lives when dealing with official procedures. The free advocacy service began in 1995 to support people with learning disabilities who had been released after long stays in institutional care to live independently around the town. Since then, it’s expanded to help people with mental health issues, autism, and Asperger’s.

It offers computer classes and out-and-about sessions where clients explore the town in a group as part of a social event. Three years ago, the service received funding to carry out statutory work and act as independent advisors for people who had just been detained under the Mental Health Act and people being assessed for care needs.

It also protects the interests of people who lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves and have no one else to represent them.

One client, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “They explained everything how I could understand it so I could make my own decisions.”

Another said: “I want to thank them for being great advocates and helping me get what I needed.”

The charity completed its move days after receiving a £71,995 grant from Children in Need after Colette completed a lengthy application process. They funding will go towards employing a new enabler and advocate to run an Action for Independence for Young People programme with one-to-one and group activities for youngsters with learning disabilities which will help them improve their wellbeing, confidence and self-reliance abilities.

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