The 2020 Citizens Advice Volunteer of the Year award went to Gill Bottomley, leader of our volunteer Benefits Appeals team.
Gill won the Volunteer of the Year: Change Champion 2020 award for her efforts during March 2020’s lockdown.
Her actions were vital in ensuring financial security for residents across the region whose benefits were threatened.
What was the situation?
Residents were put at serious risk of having their benefits reduced or losing them altogether. This was due to chaos at the Tribunal Service, a result of the pandemic. Judicial appeal hearings against rejected claims to be listed out of sequence.
The normal notice period for preparing cases was also reduced substantially. Gill and her team sometimes only had two days to request postponements to have the time to prepare cases.
How did Gill help?
To protect claimants, Gill upped her volunteering from two days a week to five. She also got a group of judges to agree to notifications being sent at least three weeks before the hearing date. This allowed enough time to prepare cases.
These actions ensured that not one of their clients lost out due to the effects of lockdowns. Residents across the region could be reassured the team would maintain their superb appeals case win rate.
Staff and volunteers at the charity who were working throughout the pandemic, providing support to residents, were delighted with Gill’s win.
The determination Gill showed getting organisations to collaborate and save residents from losing their benefits was key to her win.
What was the reaction?
Douglas Eason, the Business Development & Marketing Manager at the charity was thrilled with Gill’s win.
“I jumped up from my desk and cheered when the announcement was made at the online awards ceremony. Over 21,000 volunteers across Citizens Advice are quietly giving so much to help people they’ve never met. It’s brilliant that Gill has been recognised for the huge positive impact she’s made to help people. It’s testament to the efforts of all of the charity’s volunteers.
“What I think is truly remarkable is how many thousands of lives she must have improved over the many years that she’s been volunteering with us. Our charity is really lucky to have such selfless and community-minded people like Gill giving their time and energy to help our clients.”Douglas Eason, Business Development and Marketing Manager
What did Gill have to say?
When asked what drove Gill to volunteer for Citizens Advice, she said:
“Beyond the intriguing nature of appeals, which is one part detective, one part advocate and one part identifying failures in DWP decision-making, there is also enormous satisfaction to be gained through helping people. It feels great to make a difference in the life of another person, to support them through what are often lengthy, stressful, and confusing processes, and to ensure that they get all the benefits they’re entitled to in situations where the unique situations of individuals can often be overlooked.
“That satisfaction is amplified when you’re working with a team. Emma and Graham, the other members of the caseworker team, have been working their socks off and achieving great results despite all the frustrations of remote working. Without them, there would have been a lot of people across Bath & North East Somerset facing far worse financial situations than are currently being experienced by many of our charity’s clients.”Gill Bottomley, Leader of Benefits Appeals team
Interested in volunteering?
The charity is always looking for more volunteers and interested parties can find out more by visiting the volunteering pages of the website.