Jenny Tyler is one of R.A.B.I’s 14 regional welfare officers, providing frontline support to farming people. Jenny covers the East Central area, which includes Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, and Northamptonshire.
Before joining the charity last year, Jenny was a paramedic. To add to her bank of skills, she completed a law degree this summer. She said: “Studying law has greatly helped me as a welfare officer. I understand more about more about individual legal entitlements and how we might find solutions to their problems.
“My role within the charity is so varied, from giving someone a call to see how they’re doing, to filling in benefits forms and chasing up and accompanying people to appointments.
“No two days are the same, no two visits and no two people. You never know what’s coming next, so you need to be flexible and think on your feet.”
Jenny’s first stop of the day is the home of an elderly couple. Keith recently returned home after months in hospital following cancer treatment. His wife Jess left her job to become his full-time carer. On a previous visit, Jenny helped Jess apply for Attendance Allowance for Keith and Carers Allowance for herself.
The couple’s home is in the process of being adapted for Keith’s needs and Jenny checks that everything is going along according to plan. Always thinking of new ways to help, she discusses the possibility of securing a council tax reduction.
Welfare officers aren’t just there to sort out practical solutions, they also take the time to get to know people. This visit allows Jenny to catch up with what is happening in Keith and Jess’s lives, such as an upcoming wedding in the family they were hoping Keith would be well enough to attend.
As Jess supports her husband 24/7, Jenny encourages her to look after herself too. She checks that Jess still has time to go out with friends and enjoy hobbies, so her whole life isn’t consumed or defined by her responsibilities as a carer.
Jenny said: “While Keith is the person who receives grants from R.A.B.I, it’s equally important to support Jess. If you don’t look after the carer, who does the caring?”
Jenny’s second visit is to see Michael, an ex-farmworker who has recently secured housing following a period of homelessness. Michael had been referred to R.A.B.I via his local foodbank, which had been his only source of food and support.
Jenny arranged for Michael to receive shopping vouchers so he could stock up on food and household essentials and ensures that he has applied or is in receipt of all the state benefits he is entitled to. She also provided him with a mobile phone.
“Michael had no means of contacting anyone, not even the emergency services.” She explains. “We wanted to make sure he had that line of communication to get help if he needs it.”
Looking around Michael’s home, Jenny checks if there is anything else he needs. She agrees to look into finding him a fridge freezer, a kettle and some bed sheets.
Welfare officers don’t just visit people, they also have a lot of paperwork to do; reports, case reviews, research and benefit applications.
“I always try to set aside one day a week for admin,” said Jenny. “Later this week I’m meeting two new referrals, people who recently contacted us for the first time.”
After returning from the visits, Jenny sits down in the office to prepare for the rest of the working week. She said: “I would urge anyone who is in need of support to get in touch. That’s why we’re here.”
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