John Dickinson is one of 42 welfare assessors working with Caravan on a voluntary basis.
He has been volunteering in Hampshire and Surrey for 16 years and looks after 35 former employees of the grocery industry, mainly pensioners, who have fallen on hard times.
Dickinson was in the trade for more than 40 years himself, latterly managing the Varta battery business in the UK before retiring last spring. He says he gets great satisfaction from helping other people.
“I generally visit each beneficiary once a year, but it depends on the level of need - there’s one lady I visit every one or two weeks,” says Dickinson. “I’ll check up on people’s health and financial situation and see if they are still coping on their own.
“Part of my job is to assess what benefits the pensioners are getting and to make sure that they are receiving their full allowance.”
Dickinson also makes sure that each person has all the basic necessities in their home, such as a telephone, a fridge and washing machine. He says that one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is that Caravan works with great
speed to make the life of its beneficiaries better. He explains that if a fridge or washing machine is broken, he can get a replacement delivered in days.
But he also says that Caravan can sometimes make an even greater difference. “For some people who don’t get regular visits and have no family living close by, the contact is very important.
“I’ve also installed emergency response systems in people’s homes. Three days after installing the system in one lady’s home, she fell and broke her hip. She was too far away from her phone to get help so without the system she could have lain there for days and days.”
John Dickinson Welfare assessor