Our history

The Agnes Smith Advice Centre has been providing free advice and representation to people in the local community for more than 40 years. We have developed and expanded over the years, from a largely voluntary and informal organisation into an independent advice centre that is professional and effective in its work but firmly rooted in the local community.

Blackbird Leys is a residential estate on the southern edge of Oxford. It was built in 1958, to provide housing for workers at the Cowley car plant. In the late 1980/90s a further housing estate in Greater Leys was developed. The population of the two estates is now approximately 15,000, making the Leys one of the largest housing estates in Europe.

The Centre started life in the 1970s in the Holy Family Church, run entirely by volunteers. It was originally set up as the Blackbird Leys Neighbourhood Support Scheme to promote community development in the area. As unemployment increased and local needs changed, the scheme grew and focussed more on becoming a community advice centre. Paid workers were taken on to meet the increasing demand for advice, particularly on welfare benefits, debt and housing issues.
Agnes Smith was one of the Advice Centre’s first volunteers. She was our first paid advice worker and the first Centre Manager. Agnes worked tirelessly to promote the work of the Centre, and was a much loved and respected local resident. Sadly, Agnes died in 2002, and the Centre’s name was changed to recognise her outstanding contribution to the Centre and to the local area. Agnes represents all that is best about Blackbird Leys. From the beginning, very many Blackbird Leys residents have put time and energy into developing the community and helping their neighbours, especially when times are hard. Agnes’ determination to help local people find lasting solutions to their problems remains the key aim of the Centre, today.

Thanks to you I navigated one of the most difficult periods of my life.

Number of enquiries in 2022/23
Number of individuals supported in 2022/23