Volunteer Interview: Claire

Claire is retired from work in social housing. She has been volunteering with Citizens Advice Barnet for nine months.

What is your role at Citizens Advice Barnet?

I am a reception/admin volunteer. This entails being the first point of contact with people – so it’s welcoming them into the office, whether they are stressed or have  limited language, and processing their contact details. This information is scanned and uploaded onto their file.

When there are no people in the reception area, and to avoid ‘no shows’ or wasted advisers time –  I check the following day’s appointments and if necessary ring or send SMS/emails to clients to remind them of their appointments and to bring requisite paperwork. 

I liaise with the advisers over appointments, and when the clients arrive – frequently to make sure booked rooms are large enough for families with prams or those using ‘walkers’ can be accommodated.

I also liaise with supervisors in dealing with ‘drop ins,’ to see if we can help people who have no appointments by signposting them to an appropriate agency or alternatively advising how to access the CAB appointment system.

I do odd other bits, accepting deliveries and post, taking in documents etc- but mostly I am the frontline.


Why do you volunteer at Citizens Advice Barnet?

I volunteer as I am retired – but not ready to go to jigsaw afternoons and have a fear of jogging! Volunteering is a continuation of my working life and lets me use, and hopefully build on, my social, admin and IT skills. I like people, too.


Is there anything you’ve done while volunteering with us that you’re particularly proud of?

In my role, it’s small wins. It’s seeing people come out of appointments smiling – as they’ve had access to information and/or advisers who have spent time with them and given them a way forward. 

I am proud of the wide raft of areas that the CAB can help with and also the variety of people CAB serve. For example, one day last week we saw people from Malawi, Bulgaria and Sri Lanka.


What to say to potential volunteers?

As a volunteer, you want to spend your time doing something you are interested in, and believe in its value. CAB work is interesting because of the issues dealt with – anything from innocuous Blue Badges to fuel poverty and immigration problems.  You learn all the time.  

The CAB team structure is supportive with good communication at its heart, so as a volunteer you become part of that team. You just have to make sure you don’t eat all the biscuits!