Barnet Citizens Advice Bureau

VOLUNTEER GENERALIST ADVISER ROLE DESCRIPTION  

Purpose of the role

  • To help provide an effective and efficient advice service to members of the public
  • To help influence government and other organisations by informing them of the effect of their actions on the lives of clients

Principal Tasks and Responsibilities: 

  • Interviewing clients, both face-to-face and on the telephone, letting the client explain their enquiry and helping the client to set priorities
  • Finding, interpreting and communicating the relevant information and exploring options and implications in order that the client can come to a decision
  • Acting, where necessary, on behalf of the client, negotiating, drafting or writing letters or making appropriate referrals
  • Completing clear and accurate case records
  • Recognising the root causes of problems and participating in taking appropriate action
  • Keeping up to date on important issues by attending the appropriate training and by essential reading
  • Attending bureau meetings

Personal skills and qualities that an Adviser needs:

  • A commitment to the aims and principles of the CAB service
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Being open and approachable
  • Ability to communicate clearly both orally and in writing
  • Ability to sift through information and extract what is relevant
  • Average mathematical skills, including percentages
  • Respect for views, values and cultures that are different to their own
  • An understanding of why confidentiality is important
  • Being open to using computers on a regular basis
  • A positive attitude to self-development and assessment
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Ability to recognise their own limits and boundaries in the role
  • Managing expectations of the clients

Qualifications:

Training to be a CAB adviser requires a certain level of skills in literacy and numeracy. There is no minimum basic entry level requirement (GCSEs, A Levels or Degree) but the level of the information sources we use (for training and to give answers to clients about their problems) is assessed to be a NVQ Level 3 or A Level standard. All potential trainees are asked to complete diagnostic tests and attend an interview to help us ascertain whether they will be able to cope with the demands of the coursework. If candidates do not attain this level we suggest that they go to local Colleges and study further before starting to train to be a volunteer adviser. As well as being able to do the research and written work candidates must show that they are willing and able to comply with the aims of Citizens Advice. This involves maintaining confidentiality and being non-judgemental in dealings with clients. Trainees must show that they have the interpersonal skills to deal with a wide variety of clients, who are often under stress.

Length of Training:

You will need to be available on two full days per week. The first day will be a group training day, on a Thursday in our New Barnet bureau. This session is from 9.30 am to 4.00pm. There will be additional homework of approximately 2-4 hours per week, using our computerised information system. The second day will be for observations in bureau, from 9.30am to 5.00pm. Trainees will spend time in one of our three Barnet bureaux and will learn by observing experienced adviser interviews. This day is flexible and can be arranged to suit individual needs (we can also arrange for trainees to leave earlier to fit in around childcare arrangements). Once the taught sessions are complete, trainees are expected to attend a bureau for further training and supervision 2 days per week, 9.30 am - 5.00  pm (including one 3 hour evening advice session per week). 

On two full days per week it will take on average between 12 and 18 months to complete the full training and gain the Certificate in Generalist Advice Work. You will start interviewing clients under supervision after approximately 14 weeks of training and will spend the rest of your time building up your skills and knowledge until you have proved that you can give accurate and complete advice on all core subjects.

Training Content:

You will be learning skills in interviewing, researching information, negotiating on behalf of the client with outside bodies, letter writing skills, case recording skills.

You will be encouraged to assess yourself in regard to attitudes and examine how these affect your interaction with clients.

You will be taught the legal framework for the main subjects that we cover including Benefits, Employment, Housing, Consumer, Immigration, Credit and Debt, Family and Personal issues.

You will learn how to build on this knowledge and use our computerised information system to answer complex enquiries. You will be learning when to refer a client’s case for specialist advice or legal representation.

You will be learning how to monitor client cases and work on any social policy issues that arise.

Assessment:

The scheme involves continual assessment of each trainee’s work. You will be given written assignments to complete and questions to answer to check your understanding of each subject area. There is a training schedule setting out the timescales for each part of the learning process. The first half of the scheme is theoretical learning. During the second part of the scheme you will be a Trainee Adviser on the rota two days per week and will be building up experience and developing skills by interviewing clients. Case records will be assessed and you will be learning via feedback on these cases. You will receive ongoing support, supervision and feedback throughout the whole training.

Certification:

Once you have provided the evidence of your ability to produce competent advice across the range of subjects you will be awarded a Certificate of Generalist Advice by the National Association of Citizens Advice.

Benefits:

We hope that you will enjoy the training and that it will build on your existing skills and knowledge. There is a sense of achievement when the course is completed. Advisers tell us they gain personal satisfaction from being able to help to members of their community and enjoy working as part of a dedicated team of highly skilled volunteers. Many trainees have gone on to paid work within Citizens Advice and other similar organisations once they have gained the Certificate. Many advisers also remain as volunteers and are an essential part of our ongoing service delivery.

 Contact Details:

If you are interested in this volunteering opportunity, please e-mail the Barnet CAB Volunteer Recruitment team: volunteer@barnetcab.org.uk