Volunteering – Frequently asked Questions
How do I contact Citizens Advice Cheshire West to tell them I’m interested in volunteering?
If you would like to become a volunteer you can get in touch in a number of ways –
You can complete a form online through the national Citizens Advice website by typing the area you would like to volunteer and completing the online form. This comes directly to Citizens Advice Cheshire West and we will contact you from there.
You can email the Training and Recruitment Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest in volunteering and have an application form emailed or posted to you.
What is the process for becoming a volunteer?
We ask that all potential volunteers complete an application form and send that in to the Training and Recruitment Manager. People will then be offered an interview which is an informal discussion to learn more about you as a person and why you want to be a volunteer. This is a great chance to tell you about the process to become a volunteer and for you to ask lots of questions about your time and journey with us. If you are successful at interview, you will be invited to an induction at the Centre you are to volunteer at and will learn all about Citizens Advice Cheshire West and the important things you will need to know.
If we do not feel that you are the person we are looking for or if you feel that the Citizens Advice Service may not be for you, we can support you to become a volunteer with one of our partner organizations which may suit you better.
After your induction you will start your training to become the volunteer you would like to be. You will receive ongoing support and supervision to ensure you are happy in your role and that your training needs are met. The last stage of the process is to be ‘signed off’ as a volunteer with a certificate for your achievements.
We do ask all volunteers, regardless of the role they are applying for, to come along for an interview. This is not formal and is just about getting to know you and telling you more about the service and the role you are applying for. Interviews are a good way of making sure that the role is for you and meeting a familiar face for when you get started at induction. You shouldn’t feel nervous about the interview or worry about what you will be asked – it is just to find out more about you.
What training will I have?
We have a very comprehensive training package that allows our volunteers to give correct and detailed advice to our clients. The training will allow you to develop not only your knowledge but also your customer service skills, your admin and computer skills and also give you a wide variety of experiences that will support you during your time as a volunteer. The training is varied and includes self-study, observations, online learning and taught sessions. Here at Citizens Advice Cheshire West we are passionate about developing volunteers and enabling people to meet their goals and achieve their aspirations. We take pride in our dedicated volunteers that are well trained and well supported to deliver the advice that is needed to the community.
Are there certain skills that I need to be a Citizens Advice volunteer?
Every role needs a slightly different set of skills but there are some that we look for in all our volunteers. There are things that are very important for our service such as being impartial or keeping information confidential. People who access Citizens Advice need to feel comfortable and safe to discuss their needs and do not need to worry about who will find out or whether they will be judged – we are impartial, confidential, free and independent. We need volunteers who can converse with people face-to-face, on the phone or via webchat. It is important that you can communicate verbally and in writing so that the advice you give can be understood by the clients. We do also like volunteers that are eager and willing to learn and will be committed to Citizens Advice Cheshire West as a service and to its aims and principles.
What do people get out of volunteering with Citizens Advice?
Different people get different things out of volunteering. However, volunteering for Citizens Advice is very different to many other volunteer roles. There is a great sense of achievement and satisfaction when you help someone and there is a real need for understanding of the things that will affect nearly everyone at some point in their lives. We ensure that there are opportunities to build skills and develop yourself. There is also an emphasis on empowerment, equality and anti-discriminatory practices.
Volunteering helps some people improve their job prospects, gain experiences or support their studies. It can also help people to get to know their community or give something back to the area they know.
Do you always need volunteers?
We are always looking for volunteers as they are so valuable to the work that we do. We stagger our recruitment to ensure that people have peers in the same position as them when they begin volunteering and to also ensure a smooth induction into the service and the subsequent training. We take on new volunteers every three months and you will be made aware of when the induction for your intake will start when you attend the interview.
What support is available to volunteers?
All our volunteers are very well supported and cared for during their time with us. We ensure volunteers feel confident and able to do their roles and offer support, training and guidance to our volunteers so that they can be and feel as competent as possible.
We have monthly meetings where volunteers can learn more about what is going on across the organization and have an open discussion with the team and management. There are also Team Notice Boards in each Centre that give information about training, changes in information and social events too! All our volunteers are very good at supporting each other too and offering advice and guidance when others need it.
What level of commitment do you need from people?
We are very understanding of people’s individual personal circumstances and are grateful to all of our volunteers for the time and commitment they give. For your own personal development and to ensure we can meet the demands of our clients we do ask that people volunteer for one day a week, or two half days a week, for at least six months. We put lots of time and effort into our volunteers and invest a lot in the training process so we do ask in return that people remain as committed as possible and are honest about their availability. Please do discuss with us your availability so that we can ensure the opportunity is right for you and that we are flexible.
When or what times can I volunteer?
Our Centres are open 9am – 4pm, Monday to Friday. During these hours we see clients face-to-face, answer phone calls and talk via webchat. We suggest for our rota, that people either volunteer all day (9am – 4pm) or split it into two half days. This could be a morning (9am – 12.30pm) or an afternoon (12.30pm – 4pm) slot. We are flexible and it is important that we meet the needs and availability of our volunteers so please do discuss that with us.
Do you pay expenses?
Yes, we pay reasonable out of pocket expenses to our volunteers. You can discuss this with the Advice Centre Support in your Centre.
Volunteers need to be 16 years old or over. We do not have an upper age limit for volunteers.
Can students volunteer? And what is available for students?
We welcome applications from students and all the available roles are open to students too. However, we do ask that students consider their current commitments and how taking on an additional responsibility may affect that. We are here to support you and accommodate your circumstances but it is worth asking lots of questions at the interview to check that you can fit it all in!
Students have always gained a lot from volunteering with us especially those studying Law, Sociology, Psychology or Social Policy but all subjects gain a lot through the researching, analytical and advice skills that we will help you develop.
Will I get a job if I volunteer?
Volunteering is a great way to try something new, gain new knowledge or learn new skills. All of these things may help you on a journey to employment. We will help you to record your learning so that you can share that with potential employers and if we can support you to develop a new skill that you may need, then we will do our best to support you to achieve your goals. Employers and education providers recognize the value of people that have been volunteers with Citizens Advice and understand the training and skills people have gained from volunteering – this is great news when looking for a job or education opportunity!
Can I gain a qualification?
Citizens Advice Cheshire West is working with West Cheshire College to enable volunteers and staff to convert their training and experiences with the Citizens Advice service into a nationally recognised qualification. More details below: