Tony's Story: Volunteering at Citizens Advice
Just over six years ago I retired from full time work after a rewarding career in education. I knew at that point I didn't want to lapse into daytime TV or time-filling new hobbies. At an open day for those interested in voluntary work I was immediately attracted by the prospect of working as a trained adviser for Citizens Advice. I had heard good things about the charity. I've never regretted that decision.
The training is rigorous, supportive and varied. Trainees follow modules in areas such as benefits, employment, consumer rights, housing and finance. They shadow more experienced colleagues, get to know the databases and references we use and are shown how to record each case. We learn how to help clients identify the core of their issues, to present options available in a neutral and informed manner and how to provide practical advice with matters such as letter writing or form filling. Gradually you build up your knowledge but Citizens Advice is very much a team approach and advisers speak to session supervisors for additional information or help with more complex issues. The work is challenging, but manageable.
Good training opportunities and up to date resources on current issues means we are always learning new things. If you are interested in the way local and national government policies affect individuals and families then you will find not only do you have the chance to help make things better for clients but also that that their rights and entitlements are respected. At the end of each day as a volunteer I always reflect "that was worthwhile…I hope and think I really helped someone today."
I volunteered 2 years ago whilst I was recovering from an illness and I had time and skills to give. The training was thorough and did take about 8 months to complete but during that time I was involved within the office and alongside the computer-based learning. I sat in with experienced advisers, and was able to see the theory put into practice.
Since completing my training in Loughborough I am now able to help local people make informed decisions and choices across a wide variety of issues.
Volunteering is hard work and is a commitment but you are rewarded with the fact that you have made a difference to someone who could not see a way forward or know what their options were.
When I finally retired, I didn't want to depart entirely from the world of work so I started to investigate the possibility of volunteering. I had used Citizens Advice once in the past and had been impressed, so thought I would look into what was required to volunteer with them. Being an adviser looked interesting and challenging and I felt it was something I could have a go at. Plus I would be helping people which, for me, was an important part of wanting to volunteer.
The training was good and was combined with practical hands-on work so I felt as though I was always progressing. Volunteers are highly valued by Citizens Advice and this was always apparent through the ever-present support and encouragement given by both staff and fellow volunteers. Being an adviser has kept me mentally alert and in touch with current issues as well as providing an opportunity to meet and mix with a wide range of people. And, I can honestly say, it has never been boring!