My Week - Debby Hyams juggles client anxiety and IT gremlins

The manager of Kentish Town Citizens Advice Bureau in London recounts her week

Debby Hyams
Debby Hyams

MONDAY - It's an average day: 52 clients in varying states of distress and anxiety, all calmly managed by the voluntary advisers and support workers, many of them trainees, and two session supervisors. Some interviews turn out to be difficult and the number of people waiting to be seen grows, so I switch a supervisor to doing brief assessment interviews and come downstairs to oversee the session. I love the adrenalin of the hands-on work with advisers and clients. However, it means I have to run to my 2pm meeting and surreptitiously eat my sandwich when I get there.

TUESDAY - I'm in early to work on quarterly return figures for funders. I show an admin volunteer how to look for old files in our basement - I am struck by all those life stories, neatly filed away in the archive. When I emerge from the depths I bump into an old client; then, nipping out for lunch, I encounter another one, who tells me eagerly: "It's come!" I'm not entirely sure how to respond. Is it a giro? A baby? I make enthusiastic noises and resolve to work harder on my memory.

THURSDAY - I arrive to find volunteers waiting to get into the bureau, which is locked because the colleague who is usually in early is sick. This means it's another morning when paperwork will have to wait and I co-supervise the session.

We have a union meeting in the afternoon. Everyone is anxious about funders' spending reviews and increased pressure to do more with less. There's concern from some colleagues who are threatened with redundancy, because of uncertainty over whether the government will continue with the Financial Inclusion Fund. The funding for this will run out in March.

FRIDAY - The morning session goes like clockwork, with some great outcomes for clients. Can it last? No. At 4pm, the IT crashes and nobody can get on the system. It's the end of a normal week - more than 200 clients seen and many more problems dealt with, or on the way to resolution.

Citizens Advice helps people resolve legal, money and other problems through free, independent advice

Debby Hyams is manager of Kentish Town Citizens Advice Bureau in London

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