Citizens Advice Gateshead has been supported by local volunteers for the past 60 years and is now building on this experience to branch out thanks to a recent £210,000 grant award through Gateshead Council’s Community Led Local Development (CLLD) programme which is funded by the European Social Fund.
Judith Wood-Archer, the charity’s Service Delivery Director, explains
“Our clients have benefited from the skills of local volunteers for many years. As well as giving an enormous amount back to the local community many have gained new skills and experiences that have led them into employment, both with the charity and elsewhere in Gateshead and surrounding areas. So we decided that now is the time to take full advantage of the amazing opportunity that volunteering has to offer to people who find themselves without work and not sure how to get back into employment”.
The Volunteer Forward programme is specifically targeted at helping people living in Gateshead to build the skills, experience and support they need to make progress towards employment or further training. Local people who have an interest in volunteering, or that are already volunteering, will be able to take a short course to gain an accredited qualification in how to take advantage of volunteering for themselves, as well as their local community. They will also be helped to start volunteering for community initiatives across Gateshead including at Citizens Advice Gateshead, and will receive help to convert their volunteering experience into the assets they need to get a job.
Stuart Keilty, the newly appointed Volunteer Programme Manager at the charity, who himself progressed back into employment through volunteering several years ago, said
“We’re able to provide experiences from administration to call handling, from gardening and decorating right through to being trained to deliver general advice to our clients. It’s really down to each person – if they want to learn and try out new experiences, the opportunities and support will be here for them.”
Through the Volunteer Forward programme people can gain accredited qualifications, a work reference and the self-confidence and knowledge they need to go on to be successful at interview.
Alison Dunn, Citizens Advice Gateshead’s Chief Executive Officer is very proud that the charity is able to deliver the Volunteer programme.
“Our staff, volunteers and trustees are working hard every day to support people locally, regionally and nationally in pursuit of our vision of a fair society for all, with lives well lived. Volunteer Forward absolutely fits with this vision; we are proud to be able to raise awareness amongst Gateshead residents of the power of volunteering to help themselves as well as making a difference in their local community.”