"My application to volunteer for Citizens Advice & Rights Fife (CARF) was submitted shortly after Scotland went into the first lockdown. Since then I have completed the Adviser Training Programme online, answered the general telephone advice helpline and met many incredible people without having left my flat.
When I first submitted my application to volunteer with CARF I didn’t know what to expect. I was looking for some voluntary work during my summer break from university and a year later I am still heavily committed.
When I started to volunteer with CARF the Adviser Training Programme introduced me to a variety of issues that I may be asked to give advice on.
The training is split into two distinct sections; taught learning and online training. The online training took me through different topics like the benefit system, housing and family law just to name a few. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about a variety of topics during my training and liked that I could work at my own pace to complete them. This meant I could balance my volunteer work with my university studies and my hobbies.
The second aspect was the “in person” learning sessions which were conducted over Microsoft Teams. This consisted of 2 x 2 hours sessions per week facilitated by different people who work for CARF and I had the opportunity to ask questions.
These sessions were really fun and engaging with everyone having the chance to participate. Although completing my training over Microsoft Teams is not what I anticipated it really worked well for me as it allowed me to continue my training with CARF even whilst I was attending university in Aberdeen. The online aspect of the training made the programme a lot more accessible and able to fit in with my lifestyle.
When I heard that training would be conducted online I thought this would mean that the social aspect of volunteering with CARF would be diminished, but I found that wasn’t the case at all. Microsoft Teams allowed me to connect with people who were also volunteering and help provide that system of support if I had any questions.
This system of support continued even once I completed my training and moved on to carrying out triage on the general advice telephone line.
As a triage volunteer my role is to be the first point of contact for clients on the telephone. This means I inform clients of their GDPR rights, take their details and a note of their enquiry to pass on to the advisers. At first I was really nervous about working on the telephone on my own, but there was always someone on hand to help me out. If I was stuck I could easily email my Bureau Co-ordinator or call for help on Microsoft Teams so I felt as though I was never alone. Answering the general advice line has been a good introduction to understanding what kind of advice clients come to the bureau for. I talk to a wide variety of people and many feel grateful just knowing someone is listening to their problem. As a triage volunteer, I am now even more excited to continue my adviser training and being able to deliver advice.
Triage was my first time helping members of the public as a representative for CARF, but is not the only type of work the bureau does. Those who support me continuously check I am getting the most out of the experience and volunteering in an area I am passionate about. This means that there is always room for personal growth or a change of scene making volunteering with CARF a worthwhile experience."
“Why would anyone want to volunteer?
Let's be honest, it is as much for yourself as it is for others!
Having said that it is one of the most satisfying experiences ever to see and to help someone who has reached the point where they don't know where to turn
It's great when they leave and a huge burden has been lifted from their shoulders, whether it's a debt issue, benefit problems, indeed anything. We are often the client's last resort and it can take a great deal of courage fur them to come and see us, admitting there's a problem.
Believe me, it's not an easy job to do but I think that's why I love it so much. It makes you think, you use your brain, you develop great interpersonal skills and you learn so much about people and what life can be really like. You can literally change someone's life!
The great thing is that you're not on your own, there is great support and encouragement from the people you work with, there is superb training and learning opportunities.
I have no regret at taking this chance to volunteer, it's made me rounded, has given me a greater understanding of people and the multitude of problems they have - it keeps you young, interested and at the risk of sounding cheesy, you're doing some good!”
“Joining CARF was partly as a result of my voluntary work with Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland taking up less of my time.
I went into the CAB in Cupar to get some advice and saw a poster asking for volunteers. I hadn't realised that the organisation was a charity and largely run by volunteers.
I thought the adviser role sounded very interesting and one that I could maybe bring some of my life and career skills good to use.
Having gone through the application process, I started my training in June last year.
With more than six months completed and at the end of a rigorous training programme programme, I became fully accredited in February 2015.
I have really enjoyed the learning process and meeting people from all walks of life. It is a great feeling to get a thank you at the end of an interview, knowing that you have helped someone to deal with a problem. It has helped me become more confident and more knowledgeable about a wide range of issues affecting members of the public. For once in my life I actually look forward to going into work!"
“I returned to be a generalist volunteer with Citizens Advice in August 2012 because the role is the right fit for me and helps the wider community. By profession and personality I was an analyst. Citizens Advice gives me the enjoyable task of problem solving where each case and each client present a different enquiry. I can honestly say that I learn something new every day that I'm in the bureau and whilst I may not always find the desired solution, I have the great satisfaction of being able to help many people who ask for advice.
I rely on the two pillars of Citizens Advice: firstly, a team of supportive and experienced colleagues who are as helpful to me as they are to our clients; secondly, a great information retrieval system called AdviserNet. As a generalist I certainly can't know it all and am not expected to but with AdviserNet I have a database which taps into hundreds of subjects in a format which is client oriented. If the client enquiry is highly specialised I can refer them to our in-house specialists or can pass them on to other support agencies who know the subject in detail.
There is a great mass of information available and a great need for advice. Citizens Advice bridges the gap between the two and I'm proud to play a part in it.”