Often, an incomplete form is the only barrier preventing vulnerable individuals from accessing the vital support that they desperately need.
And, this is the exact problem that we identified in the Slough area.
We saw increasing numbers of clients coming to the Shelter Thames Valley hub for help with filling in forms. And there was no other organisation in the area providing this service.
How Nationwide are helping us to meet the demand
Our corporate partner Nationwide has been working with us since 2001, and their staff were as keen as ever to help out.
After attending a training workshop put on by Shelter, Nationwide staff from the Slough and Taplow bank branches began volunteering at the Shelter hub once a month.
The Nationwide staff use their years of customer services expertise to help Shelter clients fill out forms and improve their confidence.
During the appointments, volunteers assist clients on a one-to-one basis with understanding and filling in a wide range of forms. For example, Blue Badge applications, Freedom Passes, Child Benefit forms, Personal Independence Payment applications, and police complaint forms.
The impact of their support on the community
The difference the corporate volunteers have made to the lives of Shelter clients and to the community is huge.
They are empowering our clients and helping them to get the support that they desperately need. For example, access to justice, help with mobility, avoiding debt and bankruptcy, and help with getting the benefits that they are entitled to.
In dedicating this time, the volunteers are also providing a friendly face and a listening ear to those who need it most.
Sandra Davies, the administrator at the Shelter Thames Valley hub said: ‘Since the closure of other charities that provided form filling services, we have at least two or three requests a day for form filling.
The clients may need this for a range of reasons – language, literacy, health. I think the health reasons are the ones that stick in the memory most. We have had two people with Parkinson’s – this means they may understand the form perfectly, but their body no longer lets them complete it.
All the clients have been so grateful for this service and it is a very positive partnership for Slough Nationwide and Shelter Thames Valley.’
Looking to the future
Partnership working through corporate volunteers continues to be an innovative solution to this growing demand.
It is not only allowing us to meet the needs of the local community, but it also means we have to turn away fewer people who walk through our doors in need of support with filling out forms.
We are excited about the direction of this programme and are looking forward to further developing our partnership in the future.
If your company is interested in partnering with Shelter to support our vital work, then get in touch with our Corporate Partnerships team.