SSAFA volunteer shortlisted as RAF Benevolent Fund 'Welfare Caseworker of the Year'

26 August 2021

A SSAFA caseworker from St Briavel’s in the Forest of Dean has been shortlisted in the RAF Benevolent Fund 2021 Awards as ‘Welfare Caseworker of the Year’. 

Alison Bulbeck combines a full-time job as an MOD civil servant with her busy part-time voluntary role as a SSAFA caseworker at the Bristol & South Gloucestershire branch.

Alison works for MOD (Defence Equipment & Support) at Abbey Wood in North Bristol as Senior Information Manager, working on a range of IT change programmes and process improvement initiatives within the organisation.

However, in her role as a SSAFA caseworker for the past three years, Alison has devoted considerable time to helping serving and former RAF personnel and their families resolve an array of problems they encounter when transitioning out of the Forces, or even when back in the civilian world.

Alison works closely with individuals to identify their needs, find the right sources of support and then arrange for individuals to access it.

This dedication to the Forces community has led to her being shortlisted for the prestigious award.

Alison said: “Being a Civil Servant, I get six volunteering days a year to which I add more time from annual leave and weekends. I chose SSAFA as a way of ‘giving back’ to our Armed Forces.

“It’s vital for me to build my clients’ trust quickly as I need to discuss sensitive details about their request for support, since many contact SSAFA as a last resort. That means reassuring them that I’m here to help – for someone with mental or financial problems, this can be the lifeline they need to start rebuilding their lives.”

Alison’s ‘catchment’ is a 10-15 mile radius around Bristol and South Gloucestershire, in easy reach of work. However, since the start of Covid-19 meetings have been ‘virtual’. 

Despite the challenge of remote communication, Alison has always made it her priority to build trust and rapport with her clients:

It takes a lot for clients with complex needs, such as mental health conditions and debt, to engage when I can’t be a reassuring presence in their home.

“However, my training has stood me in good stead, albeit deprived of face-to-face meetings and often relying on poor-signal mobile phone calls!”

In the meantime, Alison continues to balance work and SSAFA commitments, fully supported by her family and colleagues.

She continued: “Being a SSAFA volunteer while working full time is an art form but being able to prioritise helps. I have a great support network, not least my SSAFA Branch Officer, line manager and my husband.

“I really enjoy collaborating with RAF Benevolent Fund colleagues and am honoured to be nominated. Becoming a SSAFA volunteer caseworker was one of my best ever decisions. If I can make each client's life easier, that’s my reward.”

The RAF Benevolent Fund 2021 Awards will take place on Thursday 21 October 2021 at Plaisterers’ Hall in London.

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