Volunteer Interview: Peter
Peter began as a volunteer adviser and has had a variety of roles and experiences before landing at the open access service provided part-time by CAB in cooperation with St James Church New Barnet. He has volunteered for Citizens Advice Barnet for over twenty years.
What is your role at Citizens Advice Barnet?
I started over 20 years ago and the role was very different to nowadays. Few specialists or paid advisers, no triage and everything paper based. Limited phone work and no email. No internet access. The training was somewhat rudimentary and there was no qualification involved. Quite a contrast to nowadays.
I was first a generalist adviser seeing clients on an open access basis for many years. To better use resources, CAB then moved to a triage system whereby my job was to gain sufficient information about the client in order to allow a decision as to how best we could deal with the problem. I did this for a further few years at Hendon and New Barnet until Coronavirus changed everything. Latterly, as part of a team I have worked at an open access service provided part-time by CAB in cooperation with St James Church New Barnet, who already had a flourishing advice service.
Why do you volunteer at Citizens Advice Barnet?
After taking early retirement, I felt I had something more to give but my motivation was also to my own benefit. I gained a wider knowledge of the local community and elsewhere. Increasingly, a significant proportion of our clientele came to the UK from other countries with their own life stories. There was the camaraderie of the Bureau, and intellectually it felt like a proper job. You certainly needed to keep up with what was happening in the outside world.
Is there anything you’ve done while volunteering with us that you’re particularly proud of?
I reckon I must have seen more than 5000 clients originally from many countries and with very varied problems. I can’t claim to have solved all their problems, but I hope I treated them sympathetically and gave them the best available advice.
4. What would you say to someone thinking of volunteering at CAB?
Being an adviser requires a commitment and this is ongoing with the need to maintain currency of advice and procedures. In return, you will get a valued qualification gained through comprehensive training. Standards are high and closely monitored. You will have the experience of dealing with a wide variety of people and often a perception of their life elsewhere. You will have the opportunity of helping to implement change for the better. I certainly have no regrets at being part of CAB for so long.
I reckon I must have seen more than 5000 clients...I can’t claim to have solved all their problems, but I hope I treated them sympathetically and gave them the best available advice.