Why I volunteered during the pandemic
Of all the kinds of services that have had to meet the challenge of social distancing during lockdown, Citizens Advice, founded on the delivery model of providing confidential advice in person face-to-face, has had to meet a major challenge and totally re-configure its tried and tested way of working.
Citizens Advice Westminster closed its office in Paddington in March last year, and all staff and volunteers have been working from home since then, continuing to speak to clients via telephone or email.
Volunteers are a key resource for the service, but at the start of lockdown it was very difficult to accommodate their needs for remote working and the regular training they receive.
However, as time went on and, with no lockdown in sight and demand growing, Quality and Performance Manager Nowsar Hussain explains: “ We recognised that with the lockdown in place for a year, with no definite timeframe of returning back to the office, we needed to reintroduce our volunteer recruitment programme. We were delighted to have received a huge number of applications, successfully recruiting 10 volunteers. It was the first remote volunteer recruitment and training programme we have undertaken. There were many challenges to overcome, particularly to ensure that the training could be delivered remotely and adapted using digital tools, while still remaining just as engaging so that the learning could take place.It proved to be very successful with the new volunteers starting to become more comfortable in their role and building up confidence as they deal with queries from clients through various channels. It is good to see volunteers learn new skills and hone and perfect existing skills by working with a team with diverse skills and knowledge.
“ Very often for volunteers of all ages, the social aspect of going into the office once a week and interacting with, and learning from, experienced colleagues is an important factor in their decision to take on this role. However, during the pandemic it has been interesting to see what new motivational triggers have led to people signing up to help.”
As three recent volunteer recruits explain:
Moving in a new direction
“I would always have liked to volunteer with Citizens Advice but, in my ordinary life, I have never felt as if I had the time to give. So I guess the silver-lining of the pandemic for me has been that I have had more time than usual to move in new directions.
“I also think that it is an interesting and challenging time to be involved with Citizens Advice’s research and campaign’s work. Covid-19 has had a dramatic impact, exacerbating old problems and creating entirely new ones. Many parts of our society have changed at lightning speed and some of them might never return to the way they were. So it stands to reason that as a society we will need to adapt, and create positive solutions. Citizens Advice is well placed to find where the cracks are and help shape policy going forward, and if I can contribute in some way by volunteering some time that would be great.”
Best avenue for my skills
“As a charity nationally recognised for providing high quality advice for those experiencing financial or other hardship, I decided Citizens Advice (CAW) was the best avenue for me to apply my professional skillset. I wanted to carry out fulfilling and values-led work, that would be both meaningful and impactful for vulnerable individuals and groups. The on-going pandemic has worsened many of Westminster’s socio-economic challenges, and I am absolutely passionate about playing my part in the critical work carried out at CAW.”
Helping where most needed
“I have decided I would like to move into the third sector as my career path and transfer my skills, knowledge, and compassion towards people in a place where most needed. The pandemic has shown me that there are a lot of people struggling, and I thought it would be a great idea if we could support each other. Especially I felt like Citizen Advice is the place where I really wanted to volunteer, because its work is based on principles and aims that I can identify with my own.”
To find about more about volunteering and view any current vacancies visit our website: