Welcoming disabled volunteers
Citizens Advice and Witness Service welcome disabled volunteers and volunteers with physical and mental health conditions.
Read about the experiences of some local Citizens Advice volunteers below:
“I really love this role as I get to interact with the staff and the clients who are all really nice”.
David is an admin assistant at Citizens Advice County Durham, Consett office. He was previously a volunteer with the Blind Society and has been volunteering with Citizens Advice for two years.
"Since volunteering with Citizens Advice I have gained more administrative skills and interpersonal skills.“I currently work as an administrative assistant working on reception. My day to day work consists of giving forms to clients, making copies of documents, speaking with clients who are waiting and generally being a helpful person.
Before becoming a volunteer at Citizens Advice I had to do a test and an induction. I am visually impaired so find it difficult to read. To support me someone sat with me to read the questions which really helped. I have not needed any adjustments at work so far but am sure should I need any they would be put on place.”
“For me I never thought that my disability would hinder my ability to become a volunteer.”
Dick is a retired bureaucrat and has been a volunteer for seven years at Citizens Advice Shoreham-By-Sea. Dick is currently a Gateway Assessor volunteering two days a week.
“I am living with Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy affects everyone differently. For me I have a weakness in the right side of my body. I also have no hearing in my left ear following an operation 12 years ago.
The local Citizens Advice where I volunteer didn’t make any specific adjustments for me, other than colleagues being, and remaining, aware that I am completely deaf on one side. This is especially important as deafness is not necessarily a visible disability. Other than that, I have not needed any adjustments to deliver advice.
What I like most about being a volunteer is being able to provide solutions that help clients solve their own problems and get them in perspective, thereby helping to remove the worry of the situation. Volunteering as an assessor is purposeful and allows me to give something back.
For those of you who feel you can not volunteer or are wary of volunteering because you are living with a disability, I’d say just give it a go. Provided you have the desire to help, having a disability will not be an issue.”
“Volunteering has giving me a lot of confidence and has allowed me to feel like part of a team. It has also allowed me to become more sociable and gives me a day to dress up, go out to work and then have lunch in town”.
Virginia has been a volunteer at Citizens Advice Teignbridge (Newton Abbot) for around three years and currently works on Social Policy.
“I initially trained as an advisor but wanted a role that was a bit different. I tried out a few others and then found my dream role in social policy. I should have known it would be perfect for me as I have a degree in social policy.
I am living with MS so my day to day ability to do things varies. I have help to get ready each morning and evening and have a driver who takes me where I need to go. I started volunteering about three years ago. I was really conscious that people would think I was in the way as I use a wheelchair. I needn't of thought that as most times people I work with don't even notice it.
My colleagues are really nice and understand that sometimes I am not well enough to come in.
I really love what I do and find it extremely rewarding. I check all the AIC codes to ensure they are coded correctly, this is really important as the AICs enable us to show funders we are using their money correctly. They are also important when trying to get funding, as they show the issues we help people with and enable us to target the correct funders.
If you have been thinking about volunteering but haven't started yet I’d say just bite the bullet. If you have the time and inclination it’s really good to do”.
“Volunteering is really enjoyable for me, I’ve gained lots of understanding about issues that affect clients, I’ve become more sociable and I feel like I am doing something truly worthwhile helping to fill a role that’s really needed.”
"I’ve been a volunteer at Newcastle Citizens Advice for 12 years and provide advice to clients via email two afternoons a week.
I’ve never been in paid work due to my disability. I have cerebral palsy so I’m unable to walk, talk clearly and use my hands properly. I also have possible Multiple Sclerosis so I get tired very quickly.
For me my disability hasn't hindered me becoming a volunteer. I love the fact that I am able to do much more than just inputting [that I’ve done in previous volunteer roles]. Because of how the service is set up I am able to give advice via email which is really interesting. Email advice is good for me as it’s not live advice so I do not have to be a speed typer. I can take a bit more time sending over the advice to clients.
I have only needed a small adjustment to help me work, which was a keyboard. I have not found any difficulties volunteering. The staff are really supportive and kind which makes working with them so nice.
If you are considering volunteering, I would say find something you’re interested in go to you local Citizens Advice to see how you can get involved.”
"Everyone is really nice and supportive and you'll get the chance to gain experience and use your experiences to help others.”
Ken is retired and has been a volunteer at Citizens Advice Wolverhampton (Bilston) since 2007.
“My main reason for becoming a volunteer was to be able to help others. I really get pleasure in being able to help others. It's extremely satisfying when you have helped someone work through an issue or problem that has been difficult for them to deal with by themselves.
I have a number of disabilities including talus collapse, angina and severe hearing loss, but would say they do not affect my ability to be an advisor and help clients with their problems. My colleagues are aware of my limitations and so assist me when necessary, for example collecting things from the printer, or carrying extra things to the advice interview.
Working as an advisor has enabled me to get broader knowledge of issues that affect our clients, including how the benefit system works, how to help clients with debt issues and a range of housing issues.”
Our commitment to Equality and Diversity
As part of our Citizens Advice service-wide Equality and Diversity Strategy 2015-2020: Stand up for equality, we promote equality and value diversity as an employer and volunteer involving organisation. Below are a few key points to explain what this means:
- We have a diverse workforce, where volunteers are encouraged, supported and valued and this is essential to ensure our service lives its values of challenging discrimination and promoting equality and valuing diversity.
- As a service, we believe that people are disabled by the barriers that society places in the way rather than by their own health conditions or impairments.
- Detailed guidance is available for local Citizens Advice and Witness Service staff around delivering inclusive volunteering, including how to recruit and support volunteers as well as equality and diversity training, undertaking accessibility audits of premises, policies and procedures, and where to improve knowledge around particular health conditions. Our guidance follows the principles within our equality and diversity policy.
- Our recruitment process encourages inclusive volunteering which focuses on finding a match between the volunteer roles available, and the applicant's skills, qualities and interests.
What you can expect from Citizens Advice
- You can expect a welcoming and inclusive environment that is free from discrimination.
- You can expect Citizens Advice to strive to provide the support and equipment you may need to enable you to use the application process, undertake your voluntary role, and undertake any relevant training.
- Supervisors and managers in local Citizens Advice and Witness Service work with volunteers to ensure that their individual needs are met, and with support from national Citizens Advice teams where appropriate.
- The computer systems we use have high levels of access, such as compatibility with screen readers. They can be used, as they are, by many disabled volunteers.
- If further support or equipment is needed to enable disabled volunteers or volunteers with mental or physical health conditions to undertake their role, the Citizens Advice ICT Service Desk has specially trained Technical Support Analysts who can provide support and advice.
Disability Network Group
- The Disability Network Group is open to everyone within the Citizens Advice network including national and local Citizens Advice, to champion the rights of all disabled people within the service and our clients.
- The Disability Network Group work to find better ways to support Citizens Advice staff and volunteers who are disabled or have a long term health condition. The group are politically impartial and can also act as an independent resource of information, including as a focus group for disability related projects within the service.
- The group meet at least twice a year where members and supporters come together to network, share common experiences, discuss future projects and group activity. In between meetings, we keep our members updated of any ongoing projects they can add their expertise to.
- For information about joining the group contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Your next step?
To find out more about volunteering with us and to apply search for volunteering opportunities near you!