Northern welfare officers John Basnett and Jackie Clegg are celebrating 20 years of working at R.A.B.I. They both joined in May 1999 when the welfare officer roles in their regions were first created.
John said: “They took on seven of us in one go. They didn’t have any welfare officers other than in East Anglia before that, so all the work was done by head office.”
John covers Yorkshire and Derbyshire, while Jackie looks after Cumbria, Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside.
In a previous life, John was a uniformed police sergeant. He shifted pace and joined the charity, initially covering County Durham and Northumberland as well.
John recalled his early days on the job: “I was given a list of more than 100 beneficiaries and started visiting them. Soon after, the foot and mouth outbreak happened. I spent three weeks in the head office answering calls, and the phones were manic.”
Prior to her role as a welfare officer, Jackie was a social worker and had experience working with the benefits system. She took these skills with her as she started helping farming people make applications for benefits, among other things.
She reflected on how the role has transformed since she started: “The job has changed beyond recognition. When we first started we had no mobile phones and no satnav. We had a phone card that we could use in phone boxes, which are a rare commodity in the north, and everything was faxed through to us.”
John added: “The problems that farmers are facing haven’t really changed, but the benefits system certainly has.”
Jackie agreed: “The benefits system is a lot more complicated, most people don’t understand it. We’ve also seen an increase in the amount of debt people are facing. All of us in the welfare team have gained a lot of knowledge about the benefits system in order to help the people who come to us.”
Over the past twenty years, both John and Jackie have thoroughly enjoyed their roles helping those in the farming community.
John said: “The highlight of the job has been meeting so many lovely, down-to-earth people. I’ve made a lot of friendships.”
Jackie added: “We’ve been fortunate and blessed to meet so many hardworking and friendly folk.”
Pictured above are John Basnett and Jackie Clegg. Photo by Kevin Milner.