There is no doubt that the Government Access Point (GAP) project has been one of Civil Service Local's greatest success stories in 2014. It is one of the citizen-focused programnmes that led to the Civil Service Awards for Excellence in Reform being given to the Civil Service Local North West team. Far more importantly it is an initiative which has offered help to people when they need it most. It's also been hugely rewarding for the civil servants who volunteered to bring the programnme to life. Two of our volunteers shared their feelings on getting involved
Chris Hare from the Land Registry has this to say:
I joined the project to make a difference. Sometimes, you can do that sitting behind a desk and sometimes it doesn’t feel like you can. Personally, I really enjoy the opportunity for face-to-face contact with our customers. It’s extremely challenging but very rewarding. If I can make just one thing easier for someone at a difficult and emotional period in their lives, it can make a big difference. I’ve certainly learned a lot about what great customer service looks like and I work with some fantastic people. I also feel re-energised in my work and committed to providing the best possible service.
Katie Swale from HMRC said:
By taking on additional roles in the team - like designing our own tailor-made marketing materials and writing articles about the work we're doing, I’ve enhanced my skills set. It's been a great development opportunity for me and for my department. I work in HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), but the Land Registry is already benefiting from my experience as I've been helping a colleague to put together a presentation about their work for a local community group.
I volunteered for GAP at a Civil Service Local event. Before going to the hospice, I educated myself on the basics of each government department. I wanted to be sure I could offer advice in most circumstances. With the help and support of the other volunteers from lots of different departments, I was able to answer the patients' questions with confidence.
One of the patients I was assigned to was a lady who wanted help with what benefits she could claim. Her daughter had also left self-employment to help care for her mother. I was able to point her in the right direction to find out which benefits they may both be entitled to. It also came to light that she was paying full council tax, which she shouldn't have been doing. I gave her the contact details for her council so she they could look in to this and gave her daughter advice on her situation.
I even managed to help a member of staff from the hospice with a tax query!
Working with the hospice has been very fulfilling and rewarding. It's very emotional and humbling to deal with customers with life limiting illnesses, and I'm so glad to be able to help in some way and give something back to the community.
If reading about Chris and Katie's experiences has inspired you and you'd like to get involved and help the GAP project, please contact Vicky Mills by commenting on this blog below and ask for more details.