Rebecca Green

Divisional Secretary for Chepstow, SSAFA Gwent.

Rebecca Green

Divisional Secretary for Chepstow, SSAFA Gwent.

Rebecca Green has been with SSAFA since 2016. Now Divisional Secretary for Chepstow in Gwent, she fits in her role around her full-time job and looking after her one year old child. She explains she loves keeping busy, loves being in a managerial position, and knows she can be part of SSAFA wherever she goes in future.

“My husband is in the Navy and he was away a lot and I was trying to fill up my time. I did other things as well, but I always wanted to volunteer so I decided to become a caseworker for SSAFA in the local area. I did that for a couple of years and it was a really interesting experience. I left to have my first child and then came back. I wasn’t sure I would be able to fit it all in, managing childcare with visiting clients, but it turned out the Divisional Secretary for the area was stepping down. He asked me if I would take over and I have been running the division since February this year.

“It's been an unusual time to start due to Covid, as we’ve had to change the way we work, but its going well. I like the management side of things.

“There's a number of things that I do as a divisional secretary. The branch generally pass me cases and I'll assign them to our caseworkers in the area. I make sure their workloads are manageable and so they tend to have a maximum of two cases at a time. I also run bi-monthly meetings with our team, working through notices from SSAFA’s central office, and work with the treasurer to keep our finances on track.

"I also spend time connecting with agencies and authorities in the local area, such as the Mayor and council. It’s important to manage that line of communication in case we need their support on a case. We also have a barracks in the area so I am regularly in touch with the welfare office there to make sure our Forces know they can access SSAFA support.

“I am also working on events to try and promote the charity and to fundraise, but due to Covid plans have changed.”

I like keeping busy

“Although I have a young child and a full-time job as a civil servant for the MoD, I get lots of support from the branch and the team and I like keeping busy. I am able to fit the role around my other commitments, so most of the work that I do is in the evenings or on Fridays.

“I’m also fortunate that my job is fairly flexible, so as long as I do my hours, they're very accommodating.

“I really enjoy the volunteering role. Seeing the cases that we are able to push through, managing the small team. I think I get the most joy from closing cases. I really enjoy that interaction with the client initially to try and work out what's wrong and then I get really high levels of satisfaction from putting all the financial transactions in and being able to click that box saying the needs of the client are met. I love speaking to the caseworkers once a case is complete too, because you can see their satisfaction and what they get out of it as well.”

I know there is always a place for me at SSAFA

“Professionally I am a project manager, so in terms of the organisational and technological side of the volunteering role, I am well prepared. But I think the key thing to being a good Divisional Secretary is staying on top of things. Putting the time aside and getting the admin done is important.

"Also keeping in touch with all of the volunteers to make sure they're happy and not overwhelmed is essential. Being a caseworker can be tough and time-consuming, especially if you get quite a difficult case, so it's about making sure that they have the advice and support that they need. It’s important to retain our volunteers, so keeping them happy is extremely important to the management of the division.

"Relationships are very important in this role. I have a really good relationship with the Branch Secretary, Alan, and also, Steve Boswell who is the Volunteer Support Manager for Wales. Knowing the people to go to, and knowing the policies helps you to do this well, and I am always keen to learn more.

"I do feel like I am part of something in this role. Due to Covid we have a lot of online meetings and calls that keep you connected to the wider network in Wales and the UK, and Central Office. We’ll discuss our problems and our successes. Being part of this wider organisation means that I can carry on volunteering even if I moved to a different part of the country in future, I know there is always a place for me at SSAFA."

We have a really good relationship with the agencies in the area

“My division is from Chepstow all the way to the edge of Newport, so it's quite a big area. We have Beachley Barracks with The Rifles there. We get a lot of clients from there and it's really interesting.

“A lot of our client demographic are retired military people who settled in either the Chepstow or Caldicot areas. It's quite a rural environment.

“We do have recurring issues. We have quite a lot of family issues that come from the barracks. There are a lot of young families down there. And then also people who have left the military recently who find it difficult to join the civilian world and deal with money and bills that they had never had to manage in military life. We also often support with rehousing. We regularly speak to the Council to get veterans on the housing list, or if that isn’t possible, we'll help with deposits to move them into their first home.

“With our older veterans, we also support with additional needs such as disabilities. We spend a lot of time signposting and explaining what grants are available, or what support they are entitled to from the Council.

“We have a really good relationship with the agencies in the area. We work closely with both Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire Council, because Chepstow is on the border. Gwent also has a fantastic Forces liaison officer who we work with too.”

I don't know where I'd be without you guys.

“Doing this work, you really do see a difference you make to someone’s life. Recently I helped a military partner relocate back to near their family and support network after a marriage breakdown. They were unable to get on the housing list for that area, but we stepped in and explained the situation to the relevant organisations, and the move was able to go ahead.

“As an organisation, we know how to navigate the system well and we know what questions to ask. Sometimes that is all our veterans, or their families need.

“After we've closed cases, I often get messages and phone calls from the people we helped to say, 'You've given us a fresh start, I really appreciate it.’ ‘I don't know where I'd be without you guys.' It’s great to know they are happy with what we’ve done for them.

“There are times when things don’t work out though and you have to be prepared for that too. Especially when you are dealing with wonderfully complex, flawed, real human beings.

“There have been times when I have been to someone's house and they obviously are in a really hard place, and they are too proud to accept your help. I remember seeing one veteran whose home was in a state of disrepair and he was in danger of being made to leave. Not being able to do anything for him because he wouldn’t let us, that was very hard.”

It's always going to look good on my CV

“I really enjoy being a Div Sec and see it as a long term role for me. I enjoy management, and I have learnt a lot that can transfer into my working life too.

“It’s definitely been helpful in developing my line management skills, as it is very different working with volunteers than people who work for you. The motivation is completely different and so you have to recognise and respond to that. But we also have to make sure that we provide the service which is expected of us and which our clients deserve.

“It's always going to look good on my CV. That's not the reason I do it, but it does go on there when I change jobs.”

At SSAFA we're their one-stop-shop

“I'm really grateful for all my volunteers and they want to be there, which is fantastic.

“For anyone thinking of giving it a go you should! Being a divisional secretary is great and if, like me, you work full time, you can still make it work for you. You need a degree of flexibility, but my team know I work, so understand that they may have to wait until the evening for me to respond to an email for example. It works better for me than doing casework, which can be more time sensitive.

“Also, with the younger serving and veteran population, getting in touch with them in the evenings can be better, because they also work.

“At SSAFA we're their one-stop-shop. You've got to be non-judgemental, you've got to listen to people and you have to do the hard work afterwards to get them what they need. But it is worth it because it's really good when you fix a problem. You have the ability to do that with SSAFA.

“A good div sec is someone who is good at managing people, organised and approachable. They should be proactive, confident to ask questions and to talk to central office, or other organisations to solve problems.

“It’s a big role, but there are things you can put in place to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Being able to prioritise what is important for the client, auditing and keeping paperwork in order and staying in touch with the caseworkers are key.”