Debbie Harlow (pictured second left) works as one of our Customer Service Advisors, usually assessing single discretionary award applications or dealing with referrals from DWP for those in financial hardship and in need of support which could include budgeting advice, support with sign posting and in some cases referred to the Welfare Reform team for more complex case work.

Debbie says, “This service is likely to grow considerably in the coming months as we come out of the pandemic and assist more families with financial and practical support.”

However, for the moment Debbie is one of the team on the Community Hub helpline talking to those who need assistance and those offering to volunteer.

Debbie says “I’m overwhelmed actually by the help there is out there. It’s really nice to see, it’s humbling really, even when we’ve got this pandemic around us, people are willing to help the ones that can’t do for themselves. There are probably more volunteers than in need of assistance. It makes you realise that people can pull together when they need to.”

Whilst most of the those working for the Hub are in the office Debbie is at home as one of those in the Shielding category.

Debbie continues “I stuck it out as long as I could because it’s nice to be in the office with other people but we decided this was the best place for me, so they’ve kitted me out and I’ve been here since lockdown started.

“I would much prefer to be in the office. It’s a bit of a challenge, I feel a bit out of it sometimes and it’s hard not being around colleagues and having someone to bounce off. Rachael (Andrews – Team Leader) has been brilliant.”

“We have a list of people to ring to ensure they have enough support in place for basic needs, and a couple of times I’ve had occasions where I’ve had people crying on the phone, one lady was concerned that once it was all over she’d be too scared to go out. I’m a Mental Health First Aider as well and so we had a chat about that and tried to put her at ease a bit, about talking to her doctor, keeping up with the news etc so it’s good to bring those skills into play as well as things that I do in my normal work.

“If I had a message for people it would be to continue what you’re doing, supporting each other but it’s important they look after themselves as well, especially when it comes to Mental Health. There are people who are concerned and rightly so but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we will get there.”