Jean, National Trust Volunteer
Jean has been attending Chapel St Leonards computer sessions. A conversation with her about her volunteering work revealed that she was going every week to the National Trust @ Gunby Hall but never claimed any expenses as everything had gone on line. I was astonished and asked her why she never claimed. She felt it wasn’t worth it, as the amount would be so small. I asked her how many miles it was she travelled each time, approx. 9 miles. I explained to her this would work out around £8 to £10 per journey depending on the mileage rate. She was astonished but still protested to doing it as she felt that the time taken to learn how to do her expenses wasn’t worth the struggle to learn the National Trust expenses claiming system which all her colleagues had told her was extremely difficult to use. I explained to her that I would be surprised if it was that difficult and in my experience of these systems, they calculated the cost for you.
She also told me she was considering stopping volunteering as they had now put all the rotas on line and since this had happened, her usual Wednesday afternoon slot had been taken by other volunteers. This was causing her some issues as when she saw the supervisor in charge of booking slots she explained to Jean that most people were now booking on line and therefore she only had a few slots left. When she looked with Jean at the slots that were left, they were all late slots and times when she wouldn’t be able to drive the distance and be back to meet her other commitments. She told her supervisor that she didn’t think she would be able to carry on volunteering. She was horrified and asked her to reconsider as her experience and knowledge was invaluable to the historic house, the rest of the team and the visitors. She said she would spend some time with her showing her how to use the system, but Jean was afraid this wouldn’t happen as she was so busy.
I suggested first we look at the email that she had been sent by the National Trust letting her know that all claims for expenses were now going online.
When we looked it had a log in code for her to use. We loaded the link and looked at what was needed. Once we broke down into small steps what she needed to do and that the miles would calculate against post code it was clear this was going to be easier than Jean first thought.
We started by filling in her basic details and the code for the house that she volunteered at. As we went over each section, Jean made notes of how she completed each section. These she would then have to refer to next time.
Once each section was completed the system calculated the amount owed to Jean. She was surprised to learn it was nearly £10 per session. Over the month it was amounted to £40 plus. This would be a huge help to Jean who was on a limited budget. This money would not only cover her petrol costs, but would go towards her vehicle repairs.
We worked out over the period of time she hadn’t claimed was a loss of in excess of £140. Jean was shocked and surprised at this. This made her more determined than ever to make sure she claimed.
We checked over her notes to make sure that they were correct. And she would be able to carry on claiming each time. She started a system of writing in her diary and when she had claimed on the computer ticking the entry in her diary.
As we were on a high, I suggested we look at her rotas. This system was very simple. The booking diary was open for 12 weeks hence. We looked at the dates that Jean wanted to work and booked ahead. She was delighted that she could book the days she had previously volunteered and at the times that worked in for her. To say she was delighted was an understatement.
Again we made notes to make sure that she would be able to do this herself.
Jean was delighted at the difference this would make to her; we agreed that we would look again next week and add her mileage on every week for her to keep track of it.
On week 2, Jean worked from her notes and made the claim against her mileage. She could then see the running total of how much she would be able to claim. She told me that her supervisor was astonished that she had been on line and booked in her working hours. She told her that she was claiming her expenses as well now. She asked her how she had done this, she explained to her that she attended computer class and they had helped her.
The confidence that this has given Jean and the ability to be able to carry out this task for herself has been lovely to see.
She has also signed herself up for emails for National Trust volunteers and has been opening and reading them weekly. She showed me weeks later that she was attending an open evening at the house she volunteers at as they were going to make many changes to the grounds. By reading the email and looking at the drawings she had many queries, and wanted to voice her opinion at the volunteers meeting. Something had she not been going onto the system she would have known about. She was well read on the subject and therefore felt she could speak with confidence at the meeting with her fellow volunteers and not feel silly.
She told me after the event, not only did she speak, but the Manager of the house valued what she had to say due to her years’ experience and valued her taking the time to read and research everything she had discussed. This has now driven Jean to help other volunteers get on line and make their claims and book their sessions on line. Without Jean volunteers would have been loss, including her. This National trust house is for ever in debt to Jean for having the courage to overcome her own fears and make herself do something that seemed alien and unnatural to her and then helping others to do the same.
Her new found skills and the clear enjoyment are a pleasure for us all to see. The confidence that she has gained has given her the drive to take on more things within her personal life. Being part of this journey has made us all feel proud and has developed an easy friendship between Jean and ourselves.
After the above had been completed by Ann working with Jean she became much more confident and her trust in us grew. She explained that she used to use a desktop computer at work and then at home using all the office software. Her husband had bought her a new laptop to replace the old computer. Unfortunately her husband passed away and Jean then left the laptop in the bag having lost confidence.
I encouraged her to bring it along to the sessions and we updated it for her and got all relevant software, emails etc working again. Once the emails were working she found a message saying her antivirus had been updated and charged to her bank account. Jean wasn’t aware of this and explained finances were tight and she couldn’t really afford the payment. We helped her contact McAfee and were able to cancel the subscription and any further renewals. Due to the personal circumstances after using an online chat with them they refunded the payment also. Jean was amazed at how all of this could be done online and was grateful for the money being returned.
The following week I showed her the Money Advice Service website and the budget planner that was available. Jean currently kept track of finances in a cash book. She entered all the details on to the online system and was surprised how it all came back to her after having used spreadsheets years ago. She is now able to monitor her finances and make changes with ease to give her a complete picture of what to expect going in and out of her bank.
We have found the work done with Jean has improved her confidence, trust, social activities and her general well-being. All are the result of taking the step to attend a digital class at the village hall. This is an excellent example of our belief that digital can be used as a tool for older people with many other benefits other than just digital skills.