Our Support Line is still very much open, supporting beneficiaries with their mental, physical and social needs. Whether it’s a change in circumstance because of the virus or life in lockdown has caused something else to raise it’s head, we’re here to support you. So what better time to shine a light on the team who work on our Support Line, speaking to people every day about how we can support them.
Liz James and Simon Savage are two of the three people answering the phones and responding to emails while the Support Line is open between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday. So we sit down with them for a bit of a chat to find out exactly what people can expect when they ring 0800 389 8820 or make an enquiry online.
So, first things first, how does the Support Line work?
Simon: The Support Line is a free phone number that is available 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and is the first point of contact for people to access the Charity’s support. When someone calls us, it’s our job to listen and gain the right information so we can provide the right response.
Liz: We take calls from serving or retired fire and rescue personnel, their colleagues or even partners who are enquiring about the Charity’s services. We work together to help them in accessing the support that is right for them, whether that’s from us or, if it’s something we can’t offer, we point them in the right direction.
What would you say to someone who felt anxious about calling?
Liz: We recognise the first step when it comes to asking for help is always the most difficult, so we try to make it as easy as possible for people. If people are nervous about calling, you could always ask a friend or relative to be with you during the call.
Simon: It’s often a massive thing for someone to admit they need help, and we understand that that first call is a big step. We want people to know we’re here to support them and do our best to help, so when answering the phone I try to normalise the situation as much as possible.
Liz: And if you prefer to make your first contact in writing, you can send an enquiry via our website and we’ll call you back.
How do you put people at ease?
Simon: Every call is different and every caller is individual, so I just really try to listen and react as appropriate for each call.
Liz: We try to build a rapport over the phone to make people feel comfortable to talk, so we’ll have a quick chat about the weather or where they live.
What sort of questions do you ask people? What can someone expect from their call?
Simon: It really depends upon the nature of the call, which leads our questions. It’s like any conversation, one answer tends to lead to the next question. Ultimately, we’re trying to get to the root of the issues so we can start to consider what solutions might look like.
Liz: After we’ve got the basics out of the way – name, address, connection to the fire service etc. – I’m just always looking to find out how we can help someone, so I ask about any difficulties they might be facing. If someone has an injury, I will ask about the onset and treatment, but also how it’s made them feel and what impact it has on their wellbeing.
Does someone need to know what help they want from the Charity when ringing?
Liz: No, we’re happy to have a conversation with them to find out what their needs are. As long as they’re as honest with us as possible, we can work together to develop a solution.
Simon: Often people are looking for support but have no idea what it might look like. It’s enough to know that they just need support. We’ll discuss the options available through the Charity and externally, then plan the best way forward.
How long do first phone calls usually take?
Liz: That’s a tricky question because there’s no ‘standard’ amount of time, as people’s needs are varied and we try to give people the time they need. Sometimes we might be the first person they’ve ever spoken to about something really difficult for them, so we don’t want them to feel rushed or hurried.
Simon: On average, people are probably on the phone for between 10 to 15 minutes, but like Liz says, it all depends on the person we’re speaking to.
You mentioned the website submission form, do you look after those as well?
Liz: Yes we do. Enquiries for services made through our website come through to our inbox. We’ll then call people back and have a conversation in the same way as we would when someone calls the 0800 number.
Do you tell the fire and rescue services when one of their employees contacts the Charity?
Liz: No. Our services are confidential within the Charity, so we don’t share information with any fire and rescue service.
Simon: We’re an entirely separate, impartial organisation, so people can come to us secure in the knowledge that they can trust us entirely.
So what do you do with people’s details?
Simon: We record the information on our secure computer system so other members of the team can see an enquiry has been made. The record of our conversation is confidential between you and our clinical and/or Welfare teams, to help with their decision making about the best way to support you.
What sort of career backgrounds do you have?
Liz: I had a varied admin career in projects, databases and occupational health before retraining as an Occupational Therapist. Before coming to the Charity, I worked for the county council in a role that involved coaching people to make lifestyle changes to improve their health and wellbeing.
Simon: I qualified as a physiotherapist in 1993 and spent four years working for the NHS in Manchester. I came to Jubilee House as a physio in 1998 and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the team. Over 21 years of experiences here put me in good stead for this role when I moved to the Support Line in May 2019.
What’s your favourite thing about your role?
Liz: It’s just so varied. It can be challenging, but it’s really satisfying knowing people gain so much from being supported by the Charity. I’ve been the first part of that story, which is a really special feeling.
Simon: When the phone rings, you never know what each call will hold. It’s nice to be able to try and help.
If you’d like to seek support from the Charity, get in touch with our free Support Line on 0800 389 8820 or by making an enquiry online. Their offices are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Our Support Line is staffed by three Assessment Practitioners: Simon Savage, Liz James and Rachel Dodsworth.