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Glasgow student Skye on how volunteering for VoiceAbility helped her give back’

5 June 2024

Skye Thain, 20, has been volunteering for VoiceAbility in Glasgow since September. 

The University of Glasgow student spoke to us about her experience of volunteering with our independent advocacy service for Social Security Scotland benefits, and what she gets out of it.

How did you find out about volunteering with VoiceAbility?

It was on job hub’ through my university — they send updates weekly and they had one for working with the service team and one for a support role. 

What made you decide to volunteer?

There was an aspect of wanting to give back to the community in a small way. I haven’t really done many community things since I’ve come to university and I was quite interested in social justice. I looked at the VoiceAbility website and it seemed like it really matched with those kind of values. 

It was also similar to my degree [politics and social policy]. My course was about looking at welfare and benefits in the past, but you don’t get an idea of what the current system is like and I was in interested in how the social security system worked — specifically in Scotland and people’s experiences of that. Learning more about the third sector organisations in Scotland and the work they do has been really nice as well. 

Tell me about your volunteering role — how does it work and what do you get up to?

As a service team volunteer you get paired up with a buddy advocate, which is really nice, and you go along together. I expressed an interest in going to some of the networking events, so I went along with my buddy Rebecca to a networking event at the job centre and chatted to other third sector organisations. 

We’ve also been to community centres in Drumchapel with members of the public. There was an open day where people would come in and have a look around the other stalls and it was really nice to speak to other charities and organisations there. 

We also did a home visit to help someone out with an application who needed a translator, which was really interesting and nice to set that up and support him with understanding some of the more technical parts of the application. 

What’s it been like having a buddy paired with you?

It’s been really nice, and Rebecca has been so lovely. I couldn’t fault it; it’s been absolutely amazing. 

Rebecca had left university the year before, she’s a similar age and we both studied the exact same course, so we had a lot in common — which is probably why we were paired together. It was just really nice to have someone who was a little bit older than you, and who has graduated and has that knowledge and experience. 

It was also really nice to see what she gets up to her in her day-to-day advocate role and seeing how she works through the benefit forms. She has such a good manner with people — she’s so reassuring and people were put at ease in her presence. 

What’s your favourite part of volunteering?

I’ve really enjoyed the networking, open day parts of the role! We also toured a rehab facility which was really interesting. We spoke to the organisers who felt there were some people there who would benefit from VoiceAbility’s benefits advocacy services, so we explained what we do to these people and that was really nice. 

I was also able to go to Scottish Parliament for a VoiceAbility reception — that was really fun and interesting. 

What would you to say to someone thinking about volunteering with VoiceAbility?

Definitely go for it! The training is so comprehensive. I think a lot of people would be kind of worried that you would just be let off on your own pretty quickly, but the training process is very intensive and covers everything you need to know. You’re never left on your own and you’re always with someone who’s more experienced. 

It’s also really flexible for university students.

There’s some weeks where I do 0 hours or weeks where I do upwards of 20 hours, it’s just when you have the time and when the opportunities are there. 

It’s really handy when you have a busy period at university with exams — you can drop your hours down to basically nothing and there’s no obligation to be turning up for a certain number of hours. 

What’s your biggest takeaway from volunteering with VoiceAbility?

It’s been really interesting for me to see how many third sector organisations there are in Glasgow. There was one time where my buddy told me about a place we were going to and, when I searched it up on my phone, it was literally a minute away from my house. I walked past there every day and never knew it was a community centre! 

There are really amazing charities doing all this great work in the local community that I live in, but I would never have known about it if it wasn’t for VoiceAbility.

I also think it’s a great way to build more professional skills, if you’re looking to build your CV. Being able to network, go out and speak to people, and build client relationships, that’s been really great as well. 

How do you think volunteering will help you for your career plans?

I’m applying for an internship with a housing association and, when I was looking at the essential criteria for the position, I was thinking how handy it was that I’ve been working with VoiceAbility. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t know what to say within the application. 

There was a lot about working on the frontline with people in vulnerable situations and experiencing professional networking, and I wouldn’t have gotten any of that in my other job. I’m really glad that I do the volunteering because there are a lot of relevant things coming up. 

Volunteering with VoiceAbility

VoiceAbility’s volunteers in Scotland work with disabled people, and their parents and carers, who need support to access Social Security Scotland benefits. Volunteers also help to raise awareness of this service through networking and community engagement.

VoiceAbility also provides a number of advocacy services, with volunteers able to support in many different ways.

Could you be a volunteer?