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.
Citizens Advice prides itself on being a "free, confidential, independent and impartial service". We are there to help members of our community know their rights and responsibilities. We meet people from all age groups and social and ethnic backgrounds. One of the privileges of the work is you never know who you will meet and what problems they will be facing. The work is challenging, but manageable. It might include problem solving, making a phone call or obtaining some information to help the client. Although we are always busy, you generally find you have enough time to enable the client to talk through the issue and then discuss the relevant information and the ways forward.
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."