Calls and emails to the Age NI Advice Service increase dramatically as we draw close to winter. It’s no surprise at all that some of the biggest concerns that people have relate to keeping themselves and their homes warm.
Problems with boilers, the price of energy, lack of insulation come up time and time again. You’d be shocked at the extent of the problems we help people deal with.
I visited one client recently who was wrapped from head to toe in blankets to keep warm as her home had no heating at all. In extreme cases like these, our partner Power NI has worked with us to provide solutions for vulnerable clients.
Lots of people don’t know about support that’s available like boiler efficiency schemes, community care grants or door-to-door transport options. And sometimes when they do, they are still worried about filling in forms, sharing information or letting people into their home to do work.
That’s why the best piece of advice I can give is, call the Age NI Advice Service for a chat and let us do a free benefit check for you. Our service is free and confidential. We can tell you what you’re entitled to. We can help you fill in forms. We will work with you to make sure you get the help you need. Don’t wait until things are dire to call.
Quite often, people ring with a very simple query but other worries and concerns will come out during the call. That’s why we spend lots of time speaking with callers, to make sure that we get the full story.
One of my clients rang this month with an enquiry about an Age NI Personal Alarm as he has had lots of falls recently and was worried about slipping in the colder weather. After a long conversation, I realised that he was also really struggling to get by on his income. By the end of the call, I had carried out a benefits check and identified lots of additional support that he was entitled to, including attendance allowance and rates payments. Just one call has transformed his life.
I also answer lots of calls from older people who clearly feeling very alone. This time of year can be particularly hard. I’ve worked with people who are house-bound, people who are depressed, people who are caring for their wives or husbands and can’t leave their home. Winter weather and dark days can intensify their problems and the situation becomes an ever decreasing circle.
Mostly, people never come straight out and say they are lonely. It’s not until you’ve taken the time to chat to someone that you sense it, and then the flood gates open. If that happens, I often refer that person to our First Connect Service for emotional support. Very often, I might be the only person a caller has spoken to all week.
The great thing about my job however, is that I get to help so many older people change their lives for the better. Something all of the Age NI Advisors hear often is, 'don’t be worrying about that, you’ve done enough.'
But we don’t stop until the final piece of the jigsaw is in place. One of my clients told me recently that he 'never expected to get so much help.' It’s truly incredible what a difference a phone call to the Age NI Advice Service can make. At this time of year, the service is a lifeline.
Eibhlin Collins is an Advisor with the Age NI Advice Service. Along with her colleagues she deals with more than 10,000 calls every year from older people, their families and carers. She says that there is a substantial increase in calls from September onwards because of people’s concerns about winter.