Reporting by Emma Cooney
A charity in Thanet is desperately appealing for volunteers to help those struggling with the cost of living crisis.
Citizens Advice Thanet supports people on everything from debt to housing, family and legal issues, and says it’s ‘heartbreaking’ to turn people away.
The pandemic has led to a drop in the number of volunteers and the charity now wants to double the number to pre-lockdown levels to meet demand.
Chief Executive Angela Drew-Robinson said: ‘With already limited resources we have to refer people to other services which is heartbreaking at a time when we know people need more than ever our help. We desperately want to be available again to anyone who needs us when they need us.
The government recently announced that all households with a home electricity connection will get £400 credited to their energy account from October – and those on low incomes, receiving disability benefits or receiving the winter fuel will receive additional financial assistance.
But nationally, Citizens Advice expects to have supported 57% more people than last year and is preparing for more calls when energy bills rise in October.
More volunteers would mean the Thanet charity could help more people and also offer a walk-in service. Trainee counselors are needed to answer phone calls, emails and meet people in person. People with social media skills are also in demand. Computer skills are essential and comprehensive training is provided.
Ms Drew-Robinson, who started as a volunteer with Citizens Advice Thanet in 2002, said volunteering has many benefits; “You learn so much. You get professional development, increased employability and knowledge. It can be a young person looking for new skills or someone who wants to change careers. Many volunteers bring life skills. And as a volunteer, you help people overcome their problems and move on, which is extremely satisfying.
The charity is also rebuilding its team of directors, responsible for overseeing strategy, governance and finance. Accounting and fundraising skills are particularly in demand.
If you would like to volunteer with Citizens Advice Thanet, please email [email protected]
Volunteer David Proderick
“It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done,” says Citizens Advice Thanet volunteer David Proderick, who calls the charity “a family”.
The retired diesel support engineer started volunteering a decade ago when he quit working and says what he missed most were the people.
There were plenty of volunteer driving jobs around, but he had traveled thousands of miles for his job and wanted to do something different. Then he remembered that his mother had used Citizens Advice when he was younger.
“I was 7 or 8 years old. It must have been school holidays because my mother dragged me and my sister and me. She was raising two children on her own. My father was away and we needed financial help.
The Ramsgate resident went to offer his services and said he could ‘make tea, book people and sweep’.
He quickly learned to become an adviser and says the training at Citizens Advice is “second to none”, adding that the volunteers are part of the family.
“My wife suffered greatly from the disease and died five years ago. All the while, the Citizens Advice family was there for me. There is always someone to support you. »
The rewards, he said, were people’s appreciation for your advice and seeing people leave dates feeling lighter.
“I call it hatch and match and dispatch because we help people with everything from births to deaths, benefit claims, neighborhood disputes, marriage breakdowns, consumer issues – and debt matters. right now. I’m the first person people see when they walk through the door. And if I don’t know the answer, I know where to find it.
“Sometimes people just want someone to listen to them.
“We get people saying ‘they can’t pay you enough for what you’ve done.’ They don’t realize that we are volunteers!
“The hardest thing to do is walk through the door. Sometimes someone comes in crying and we find them an extra £100 a week, and they cry again. People don’t know what they are entitled to, especially the elderly I see.
The 73-year-old from Ramsgate is also a volunteer at Age UK Thanet, where blue badge claims and benefit calculations are requested, and he is an escort in a minibus for a church lunch club where he helps also. “It’s a good crack. A good time,” he said.
During the lockdown, Citizens Advice phone lines were diverted to his home and a computer was installed. First he answered local calls, once they were over he went on the computer to help answer national enquiries.
“I have to do something,” he said. “I was a man who lived alone during confinement. Citizens Advice has kept me sane.
How Citizens Advice can help reduce energy costs and debt
- Check if there are ways to increase income and save on expenses
- See what benefits you are entitled to
- See what your energy companies are offering
- Look at emergency vouchers
- Links to Debt Charities
- Citizens Advice Thanet works with Citizens Advice North & West Kent to provide debt advice. To make an appointment email: [email protected] Telephone: 03300 533 667 When contacting the association please provide your name and contact details for a call back. Find Citizens Advice Thanet online at https://thanetcitizensadvice.org/
10 tips to save energy and money
A volunteer administrator at Citizens Advice Thanet, Danni Barnes works for the charity National Energy Action (NEA).
She says it’s important to speak with your energy supplier to check what help is available if people are struggling to pay for and use the energy you need to stay warm, safe and healthy .
She adds that although the energy saving measures do not compensate for the huge increase in the energy price cap, NEA offers the tips below to save money.
- Don’t forget to disable sleep mode on your devices. Unplug or turn off appliances at the wall. Don’t leave your cell phone charging overnight – most only need a few hours.
- Microwave cooking is cheaper than oven cooking because it uses less energy and takes less time to cook.
- Avoid putting hot food in your freezer as this makes it work harder – let the food cool down first.
- Turn off lights when leaving a room. Leave a standard bulb 60W turned on for 12 hours a day could cost you £73 a year – for just one bulb. Switch to an energy-saving LED bulb. These can consume up to 90% less electricity.
- Boil only the water you need in your kettle.
- Electric showers are one of the biggest energy consumers, set a timer for three minutes to keep costs down.
- Wash clothes at 30°C instead of 40°C.
- Use a bowl to wash up rather than running the faucet.
- Dry clothes on a clothesline outside or on a drying rack, instead of using a clothes dryer. If you must use a dryer, the latest heat pump dryers use less electricity.
- Understanding your heating controls can help. If you have electric storage heaters, see National Energy Actions Make the most of the economy 7 fact sheet.
NEA aims to ensure everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is warm and safe at home. Visit www.nea.org.uk/energyhelp page for more information and watch his Energy consumption at home brochure.
More details on government energy support can be found on Help for Households https://helpforhouseholds.campaign.gov.uk/