Volunteering in the Civic Centre

by Cllr Becca Thackray


Anna Birley and Scarlett O’Hara and I are Councillors in adjacent wards: Coldharbour, Herne Hill and Thurlow Park. We went to see more closely what a busy Monday morning in the Civic Centre is like for staff and for residents and to help where we could.

Allison Carew (Customer Service & Assessments Mgr) and Tim Hillman-Brown who Heads the service in the Civic Centre have been adapting the space in the Civic Centre, ordering signage and redistributing security to make it safer for staff and easier for residents.

Allison set us up with alarms which are charged up ready for staff members to book out and explained the system: the ‘carriages’, ‘donuts’, ‘podium’ and ‘queue combing’ .

We were volunteering alongside some calm, caring and efficient members of staff – one who endlessly ‘combed the queue’ to answer questions and another who patiently helped scan documents.

I now know what’s involved in completing an application for Universal Credit and why it helps to have assistants in the Civic Centre on Tuesdays.

Not knowing your Housing Benefits number, your phone number and not having an email address put customers at a disadvantage but staff did their best to overcome this. An adviser looked up Housing Benefit numbers for older residents when asking them to come back would have been too much to expect.

Paid Volunteering is in staff contracts. It can have all sorts of benefits in terms of professional development, CV experience, working with other departments.

It’s a valuable insight for councillors too. As Cllr Anna Birley said “I hope more colleagues will consider doing the same.”

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