GAP is operated by Civil Service Local (CS Local), the regional initiative of the Cabinet Office. The project’s aim is to provide advice and support to the most vulnerable members of society, and since March 2014 GAP have been visiting hospices in the North West. They act as a link between the patients and government departments including the Department for Work and Pensions, Inland Revenue, Land Registry and the Home Office.
Staffed by volunteers, GAP provides a friendly face-to-face advice service giving practical information and responses to enquiries. The project can be used by patients, their family members and their friends.
GAP began with two hospices, St Catherine’s in Preston and Trinity in Blackpool. Gemma Cooper is the lead for Trinity GAP, and she visits the hospice every four months. She said:
“I volunteered to be able to make a difference and give something back to the local community. I really enjoy the opportunity for face-to-face contact with our customers. It’s extremely challenging as I am frequently faced with situations that I would not come across in my day-to-day role. While this can be emotional, I am in the privileged position of being able to help people who don’t know where to turn, and to make a difference at a difficult time.”
Commenting on the benefits of GAP at Trinity, Sister Deborah Wood said:
“The patients that attend Day Therapy Unit are a mixture of ages and illnesses, but they do all have one thing in common. They are all coming to the end of what has often been a long difficult journey. These patients are starting to deteriorate, and at times become anxious and agitated, with low mood and fatigue. One of the main causes of our patient’s anxiety is often their lack of money.”
“Financial stress has a terrible effect on the patients and their families. Most of our patients are not aware of all the benefits that are available to them, and are often of the mind-set they haven’t got the energy to make that call.”
“Gemma and the team sit down with our patients and make this daunting process accessible. Often this process makes life so much easier for the patient and often money can be found that has not been claimed. This leaves our patients with a financial peace of mind, which also aids quality and dignity as they approach end of life.”
“The patients leave with positive views and faith in the Civil Service. I have to admire the way Gemma and the team work with our patients in what can be a difficult emotional environment. They show great respect and understanding, and the work they do here is hugely valued, the project is something we all feel very proud to be part of.”
“The work we do is valued and it can be enormously rewarding. The best measure of our success is the trust placed in the project’s volunteers by our partners: working in such a sensitive and emotional environment as a hospice is a great honour. I believe the work we do is actively changing the perception of civil servants.”
GAP have also recently added Woodlands Hospice in Liverpool to their roster.
For more information visit Civil Service Local