This volunteers week we’re focusing on the difference our volunteers make.
Our volunteers are a committed, caring group focused on helping people with complex problems find a way forward.
However, because not everyone realises that we’re a charity, their impact can easily be overlooked. The truth is that every year, they have a huge impact on the lives of thousands of people in Bath & North East Somerset.
So, we’d like to highlight the difference they make.
What difference do our volunteers make for our charity?
“I am grateful for the tremendous flexibility and commitment our volunteers have shown over the last two years. They have adapted and embraced so many changes to our working practices, whilst always keeping our clients at the forefront of everything they do. It’s truly humbling to be part of such a team.”Richard Yates, Service Manager at Citizens Advice – Bath & North East Somerset
They suffuse our whole organisation, answering calls from clients, gathering research and even stewarding the charity as trustees. While volunteers support every department, the biggest impact they have is felt on the frontline, where they help residents who are in distress.
In 2021, our volunteers donated 250 hours every week to helping residents, filling critical roles that support the daily provision of advice for residents.
What difference do our volunteers make for our clients?
The help they provide can be life-changing. In 2021, the three members of our Volunteer Appeals team generated over £1 million in financial outcomes for their clients.
The completely volunteer-run team deals with the most vulnerable residents in our community. As a result, these can be some of the most serious cases. Life can be much harder for their clients due to disabilities, which others don’t have to deal with.
The team takes action to overturn unfair benefits rulings from the Department for Work and Pensions. Year after year, they achieve a 95% success rate in overturning rulings.
Volunteers helping a disabled client
One client, with multiple disabilities that made moving difficult, received an £8,000 benefits back payment and had this to say of the Volunteer Appeals team:
“My heart just keeps thanking you and thanking you! I can’t possibly repay you, you always went above and beyond and I am very grateful.”Client
Volunteers helping a client with debt
Advisers help people with a range of problems. In 2021, they helped nearly 4,000 local people with almost 13,000 issues. It’s a great achievement. However, worringly, more than half of those issues concerned financial matters.
Loads of people across the region have been dealing with the Cost of Living Crisis as a daily part of existence for years. As a result, debt is something our volunteer advisers have been helping people with on a daily basis for decades.
For example, one of our volunteers has been helping a client who was previously registered homeless. They were £4,000 in debt and had problems with their benefits. Debt can be a barrier to getting into housing. This is because, once you have an address, creditors will start pursuing you for money again.
The client’s, Home Group Support Officer said this of the volunteer adviser who helped them:
“I’d like to thank you for all your perseverance and hard work!
“It’s been a long road but she’s finally turning the corner and that is paying off for her. Your sterling work has been a major part in that.”Isobel, Home Group Support Coordinator
However, volunteering is a two-way street and we like to give something back to our volunteers. So, here are some of the things that our volunteers say they get out of volunteering for us.
Volunteers helping clients with life-shortening conditions
One of the charity’s most important teams helps people who are suffering from cancer, MS and other life-altering and life-shortening conditions.
The team was launched 16 years ago, with funding from Macmillan to help people with cancer.
Karen, the team’s leader, said: “Demand for our service has always outstripped our resources. However, as we’ve grown to include people with different conditions than just cancer, demand has risen exponentially.
“Without our volunteers we simply could not support the number of clients we do.”Karen Gough, Macmillan Welfare Rights Advisor and Project Lead at Citizens Advice – Bath & North East Somerset
COVID has lead to a significant increase in late diagnoses and delays in treatments. So, many clients are already at a crisis point in their cancer journey when they come to the charity for help.
Our volunteers have risen to the challenge and in 2021 we provided support to around 700 clients and generated financial outcomes of £4 million for clients. This has allowed those most vulnerable clients to keep warm, afford the costs of travelling to receive treatment, keep a roof over their heads and most importantly feel supported.
One of the team’s clients had this to say. “When I was referred to your service I felt as though I had fallen off the edge of a cliff and was hurtling towards disaster when along came the Macmillan parachute and I glided safely to the ground and can now focus on my treatment and no longer worry about money.
“Your team really are life savers as much as my doctors.”Client
5 reasons people enjoy volunteering for us
- Feeling like you’ve done something good and genuinely helped someone in need.
- Skills upgrading, helping you to transition onto a new career path.
- Making a real difference in society.
- Being part of a fun team that enjoys socialising and really cares about other people.
- Joining a charity that is known for doing amazing things.