Stating the obvious. Most of the people who volunteer for Citizens Advice do so because they want to help people – by giving advice (the name is a bit of a giveaway). I joined Citizens Advice to work on Social Policy. This is the bit of Citizens Advice which is not as well known by the public at large. Over 2 million people take their troubles to Citizens Advice Bureaux every year. Social Policy is about tracking trends in the information gathered from clients to lobby and campaign locally and nationally to change the way things are done.
I came to volunteering after a lifelong career in project management and have experience in how to organize teams to achieve objectives. I am fortunate when I joined Citizens Advice in that I was given the freedom to re-organize Social Policy in the district I joined as I saw fit. I have also had the opportunity to work with some dedicated, talented individuals who have a huge range of skills and experience acquired in other careers (Volunteers and paid staff). The organisation is sometimes a little chaotic and persuading volunteers to do things requires a different approach to that involved in dealing with paid employees.
The single most important objective I have identified in the bureau I joined is the need to make Social Policy more relevant to the people who matter – the volunteer advisers. The government’s drive to localism and the engagement of the volunteer sector provide an ideal environment in which to do this.
Each bureau feeds its information into a central database which Citizens Advice analyses to use in national campaigns. Each bureau can also look at this information to influence local issues. For example, since the abolition of Council Tax Benefit, local councils have been obliged to devise their own Council Tax Support schemes which have to absorb cuts in funding. Different councils have adopted different measures. In our district we are able to monitor the effects of the local scheme and are making the council aware of what we have found with a view to adjusting the scheme to protect the most vulnerable. This is directly relevant to the local community – and to advisers
I enjoy what I do for Citizens Advice and sometimes think that being paid for what I do as a volunteer would be ideal. HoweverI have come to believe that the freedom (in thought and deed) which comes with being a volunteer is what makes it so enjoyable