Some staff at The Well were recently giggling at the thought that The Well used to be somewhere people came to relax and read a newspaper. Those days are a distant memory but we hope we will see them again one day. With so few organisations and agencies offering face-to-face help, so many people with communication or digital barriers need our services more than ever.
Where once there was a queue at the beginning of the day and again at 1pm before the afternoon advice session. There is now a constant and relentless queue. Clients start to queue from early in the morning despite The Well not opening until 9.30am, to increase their chances of being seen. They are often tired, cold and wet by the time they finally make it into our waiting area, where they often then have a further long wait. We often have to put chairs outside for elderly or disabled clients to sit on as they wait. Patience can fray as people desperately wait to be seen.
Our Advice Workers can feel overwhelmed at the sheer volume of people waiting. Quick 10 minute appointments are just not possible when dealing with complex issues with language barriers thrown in. Where before we may have been able to spend hours with clients, we now try to limit the time to 45 minutes and have to be firm with clients that we can only help with the most urgent of their many problems. It is difficult to say no to people who have been waiting so patiently for help.
Right on the front line are our Reception staff, limiting the numbers allowed in the building at a time, offering a warm welcome, ensuring health and safety guidelines are followed, reassuring clients that we will help as quickly as we can, calming tensions, assessing and sometimes triaging issues, offering tea to heat people up after their wait outdoors and breaking the disappointing news to some that they won’t be seen today. After covering Reception for the first time, a volunteers said to the usual Reception staff “I have a new respect for you! You do an amazing job so calmly and attentively dealing with people who are so desperate for help.”
As many organisations are keeping clients at arms’ length, rarely picking up the phone never mind allowing the time for someone to explain, face-to-face, their complex situation that doesn’t fit into one of the neat ‘online help’ categories: the pressure is on at The Well.
Please remember us in your prayers and let’s get back to helping people in the best ways we can.