Volunteers help support our services and our work right across the charity. Our amazing team of volunteers help us to achieve much more than we would be able to achieve alone.
Wendy volunteered over 2 years ago, doing one day a week as an Information Volunteer. She fits volunteering around her librarian job, changing her volunteering hours to manage both.
“As a librarian I have always given information to customers, and over the years have referred many people to Citizens Advice, so it seemed a logical step to volunteer with them when I had the opportunity.
I love it when we help someone achieve what they came for. Recently, a client had not received any benefits for some time and had literally no money to live on. With his permission I rang the Department of Work and Pensions and they agreed to send an advance payment into his bank account that day. He was so happy!’”
Wendy welcomes clients and enters their details on our system. “Sometimes I help people use computers to apply for benefits or to write letters, and sometimes I help them use the phone to get information. I also direct clients to other organisations who could help them with specialist advice”.
Wendy has nearly finished her training as an AdviceLine Volunteer. “I am so impressed by the AdviceLine team; they are so friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.”
Asked about volunteering, Wendy says “Just do it! You could get some experience to improve your CV and get that warm glow of satisfaction from helping someone.”
Verena has been a Volunteer Adviser since 2014, a time which has flown by! She is with us from 10am until up to 4pm two days per week.
On a typical day Verena will advise two booked appointments with clients. During these 45 minute appointments Verena will “spend time asking questions and listening carefully to the answers, looking up information and making phone calls and then either assisting clients to resolve their issues or encouraging them to act themselves’.
Verena says “I’m a pragmatist and enjoy working through a problem. I chose CAML on the advice of a friend who said I would find it fascinating and fulfilling – and I do.’
‘The thing I most enjoy about volunteering is the people – our other volunteers, staff and our clients. It is a real melting pot of personalities and life experiences that teach me something new every day. I am thrilled every time I help make even a little positive difference to someone’s every-day life.”
Verena has found volunteering helps improve confidence, as well as her listening skills. ‘After many years out of the workplace raising my family, my computer skills were very rusty but I am much more confident now even though I still type with 2 fingers! I am much better at listening and not jumping to conclusions so quickly’.
Verena’s advice is: ‘Just do it. You will learn so much about 21st century Britain and about yourself’.
Cathy has been a volunteer since 2013, volunteering mainly at our Streatham Hill office. She with us every Monday and Thursday, for six to hours per day. She has been part of our outreach team, supporting our work in community locations in Lambeth, and has also supported IT developments.
“I enjoy the feeling of achievement at the end of the day. I’m always proud when we can help someone achieve something they thought impossible before we got involved.”
Cathy mainly supports our face to face Advice service, usually providing 10-15 minute assessment interviews. This involves “finding out what their situation is, asking what help they want, and then identifying the best next step to achieve their goal. Sometimes this means arranging an appointment with one of our trained advisers, or providing information so they can help themselves, or directing people which other organisation or specialist body could also be of help.”
Cathy has worked in IT for 20 years and been an administrator with a local political party. She has lived in Streatham for 30 years and is also a governor of a local school.
Cathy says: “Do it! Volunteering is a very rewarding experience. You will get full training and you will be part of a supportive team”.
Clare has been an Adviceline Volunteer since 2017. Before this, for 10 years, she was volunteering for Citizens Advice in Norfolk.
“I wanted to continue volunteering with Citizens Advice when I moved to London and now work on Tuesdays 10 to 4, taking phone calls on the Adviceline’
As part of our Adviceline partnership, Clare answers phone calls from across West and South West London. Calls can usually last between 10 and 20 minutes, together with time putting the notes onto our system.
She says: “Most of the issues are similar to Norfolk, more people with problems with housing, though fewer with issues related to lack of internet/public transport. The learning curve for me was the different provision of services in the different boroughs, but the computer information is good and my colleagues incredibly helpful and knowledgeable.”
‘My motivation was to help people and to put something back, but this quickly grew to also enjoying the challenge of thinking on your feet, the satisfaction of being able to help people improve their lives, and a better understanding. I enjoy getting to grips with people’s problems and helping them solve them, and I enjoy the supportive atmosphere of the office. I have improved my analytical and interviewing skills. It has given me a much greater understanding of what’s going on in the local community and nationally.
Clare has a varied background, with a degree in archaeology, followed by time spent travelling and a career in HR. She started as a volunteer when her youngest child was 8. As well as volunteering with CA Merton & Lambeth, Clare supports the local food bank, does fundraising for Norfolk Churches Trust and is a patron of Norfolk Homestart.
Laura is an Adviceline Volunteer, who has been volunteering with CA Merton & Lambeth for the last 8 months. Laura lives locally in South London, and is a recent graduate in history, now studying the Legal Practice Course at BPP in London. She is due to start her career as a lawyer in August. Outside of studying and volunteering, she likes visiting art galleries and going to concerts.
Laura became interested in volunteering as a result of her studies. ‘I am studying law, and particularly interested in the ways in which the law can provide support to those more vulnerable in society. I thought CAML could provide an insight into this area and enable me to help people. It has done both!’
Many of our volunteers are students like Laura, and find the combination of gathering experience and developing skills to be helpful in starting a career.
As with many of our volunteers, Laura has developed information and problem-solving skills, telling us ‘I have improved my ability to pinpoint relevant information’, and that her proudest moment as a volunteer is ‘probably the first time I remembered exactly where I needed to search in order to answer a client’s query clearly and quickly’.
Laura’s role in the Adviceline team means talking to clients about a wide variety of different problems, including housing, debt and benefits. Each client and each problem is different, making the role varied and interesting. Laura says this has meant she has ’learnt how to listen to clients without jumping to any conclusions’.
Asked what she’d say to someone interested in volunteering with the Adviceline team, Laura says ‘I would highly recommend it! It is interesting and challenging!’