Our volunteers are at the heart of what we do, without them, we wouldn’t be able to run our services. Volunteering at Citizens Advice not only benefits the organisation but it will also benefit you. Below are testimonials from our volunteers explaining how volunteering has helped them. If these stories have inspired you to help us make a difference, register your interest to volunteer here.
I was a student studying in the second year of a BA (Hons) in Public Services when I started volunteering with Citizens Advice Rhondda Cynon Taff (CARCT) in February 2014 as part of my university course. I was required to complete 30 hours of voluntary work but decided to carry on volunteering for my own benefit. I started as a gateway assessor, where I conducted brief 10 minute assessment interviews with clients during the drop-in sessions. I was nervous before starting and never thought I would be able to do such work, as I have never had previous work experience of dealing directly with the public and had limited knowledge of the welfare benefit system. I didn’t have any knowledge of the other topics such as housing, employment, debt or any other thing that CARCT deal with on a daily basis. On my first day I was introduced to all other staff and volunteers at the bureau and I had to complete a number of training journals. In the next week or so I observed the experienced assessors before conducting the interviews by myself. After a few weeks, I gained confidence and became more familiar with lots of different areas of advice, through the training and tips given by more experienced advisers. In July 2014 I was offered a full time role for the summer as a project worker delivering generalist advice at outreach. This lasted for 18 months but a vacancy came up in October 2015 to become a Debt Specialist which is my current role. I have gained vast experience from working with a group of highly skilled advisers and I’m now professionally accredited having recently completed the IMA – Certificate in Money Advice Practice which I am very grateful to the office for investing the time and money for me to achieve this. I’m also a DRO intermediary and to date I have written off over £1,006,000 of debt for clients in Rhondda Cynon Taff. I have also had various other opportunities whilst volunteering/working at the bureau. I had the chance to attend a focus group at the main office in London to discuss the future of the National Citizens Advice and also the change in branding. I was responsible for translating the Citizens Advice mission statement in to Welsh. I have also spoken on BBC Radio Wales about my experience as a volunteer with CA and the high amount of volunteers that become paid workers. I have also discussed this topic as a guest lecturer at the University of South Wales in front of a large group of people on two separate occasions. I would recommend volunteering with us to anybody as it offers so much and is also an enjoyable experience.
I first started my journey with Citizens Advice RCT on a work placement at the age of 17 in January 2015 as a part of the Support Team. I have carried out numerous administration tasks throughout my years here, such as greeting clients, covering reception and making appointments to name just a few. Since the first day I started I was supported immensely by all of my colleagues and was shown the ropes. My confidence has improved greatly and it’s all down to my experience here at Citizens Advice RCT. In the April of 2015 I gained paid employment at Citizens Advice and I have been here ever since. I don’t believe I would have been able to achieve any of this, if not for my experience as a volunteer first!
I decided to start volunteering with CA when I was made redundant, I had always thought highly of CA as they had helped me personally in the past so I always wanted to give something back. But unbeknown to me it would become such a big part of my life and still is 8 years later! CA has helped me to develop a whole range of skills that have assisted me in helping lots of people in all different kinds of situations. I started as a Telephone adviser which helped me to develop my listening skills, IT skills and research skills as I had to find the right information to help people. I then moved on to become a face to face adviser so providing information to people and recording case notes but also making people feel at ease to tell me about their problems as trust is a big part of what we do. After further training provided by CA, I became a full time employee and was able to begin giving advice on a whole range of subjects. My training helped me to develop personally too as I could empathise with what people were going through and help people to see a way forward in their situation. Now 8 years later I have developed really good skills which help me to build strong relationships with people, other organisations I work with and most importantly with the people I work with as we are there to listen to and support each other. Sometimes listening to people stories can be difficult, but with training and support, I find my role really rewarding and I am now doing a job I love!
I gave up my job in Higher Education following the birth of my daughter in 2002. I moved back to this area not long afterwards but decided not to try to go back to work full time until my daughter was a bit older. When my daughter was leaving Primary School, I started to apply for jobs. However, I found that, not only was the job market very different from that I was accustomed to, but that the kind of job (i.e education/ management) I used to do no longer seemed to exist. Furthermore, the jobs that DID exist were either insecure, low paid, or otherwise not worth doing financially. This was a depressing discovery – I didn’t think I’d find it difficult to get a job but, bearing in mind I hadn’t worked in a “proper” job for some time by then and was getting on in years, I thought I’d better do something about it. After spending some time working on music grades, and having reached an adequate standard to teach, I set myself up as a Piano Teacher on a self-employed basis. This worked well, but wasn’t really a living as such. I decided to do some voluntary work mainly to get back into the habit of working, to upgrade my existing skills, to gain some fresh skills and to evaluate my skill set against what was being asked for by employers these days. By this time, I didn’t think I had much to offer, so I couldn’t go wrong really. I also wanted to prove to myself that the old grey matter hadn’t completely stopped working. I looked at several charities but didn’t like the look of most of them of them. I didn’t fancy being a Trustee, and wanted something with a clear training path. I liked the fact that CA has a firmly established reputation as a national Charity. I started off doing a day on Webchat, then some Adviceline, then started to see actual Clients in Gateway, based in Mountain Ash. I’ve mainly enjoyed my time as a Volunteer. I found the work challenging but not too onerous and no day was the same as the previous one. There was training on offer too. And cakes. Lots of cakes. I’m now working on a temporary contract until next March – paid! Volunteering has paid off for me – I’ve gained new skills (my IT skills were woeful), confidence and experience. Most of all, it’s helped fill the glaring gap on my CV.
I started volunteering with Citizens Advice in January 2018 after completing a 16-week work placement doing advice and administration. I enjoyed the administration more than the advice which is why I chose to volunteer on the Support Team. While volunteering, my skills have developed so much and my confidence level has improved more than I could have imagined. Before I started volunteering, I was terrified to answer a phone and I avoided it as long as possible even though I knew that overcoming that fear was one of the things I was most hoping to do. Thanks to some of the incredible staff at Citizens Advice I am now able to answer the phone fairly confidently and I couldn’t have done that without their encouragement and support. In September 2018 I was offered a temporary contract until December 2018 but that contract has now been extended until March 2019 which is very exciting.