The majority of direct Welfare payments and Bus Passes are provided by ASSIST on Wednesdays and the remainder are provided by the Friday Team. There is a one and a half hour slot for clients to receive their payments and passes.
Clients are given the choice between receiving £20 per week or £10 and a 7 day bus pass. Many clients choose to opt regularly for the bus pass as this offers a freedom of movement and inclusion. It is particularly the case for those with medical needs, mobility problems, childcare and those living on the outskirts of the city.
The atmosphere for the session is generally very friendly and an opportunity to catch up with news and progress. In addition to the payments and bus passes, this is also the space where letters are passed on and appointments for Advocacy, Help Desk or other organisations. Clearly, clients are living under great duress and can sometimes feel the need to express this in different ways. Support is often given by other clients as well as volunteers. Hot and cold drinks plus biscuits and a chat are usually on offer.
As a volunteer, despite having experience in similar situations, I must admit to some trepidation in taking up this work as it feels such a raw and basic thing to be offering a minimum of respite to the clients. However, this feeling has been dispelled from the start, and continues to be, despite the inevitable hiccough. This is largely because of the highly social nature of the session and the cooperative nature displayed by the clients, and not forget the wonderful Shirley who volunteers from Central United Reform Church.