Gary's Story As we’ve launched our new More Money in Your Pocket guide this month we are continuing to take the opportunity to introduce to you our Advice and Advocacy team, and tell you a bit more about the amazing work they do. One of our Advice and Advocacy Officers, Gary Vaugh describes his role, motivations and most memorable moments. 1. What drew you to work as an Age NI Advice and Advocacy Officer? I had over 15 years experience working in the Advice and Advocacy sector before joining Age NI. I was attracted to the Age NI Advice and Advocacy Officer role based on the fact that I would be focusing on issues relating to older people. I was aware of the challenges facing older people (loneliness, low benefit uptake and the impact of government policy – WASPI Campaign) and wanted to help. I was drawn to the role because I wanted to help, empower, guide and represent older people. 2. What does a typical day look like? A typical day for an Advice and Advocacy Officer can be varied. As we are mainly a telephone advice line a large amount of the day is spent on the phone giving advice to clients. The advice can range from benefits, housing, community care, transport and debt to name just a few. Most days we have face to face appointments where we would be completing benefit application forms such as Attendance Allowance. 3. What do you enjoy most about your role? Without doubt it’s helping to improve the financial situation of older people which in turn improves their quality of life. 4. What’s been your biggest highlight/most memorable moment? There have been a couple of highlights and memorable moments but one that resonates with me. Following a telephone call I identified that a client was eligible for a disability benefit called Attendance Allowance (AA). I ordered the AA claim form from Disability and Carers Service for the client and helped complete it. We routinely identify extra benefits through a free benefit check and help clients apply for eligible benefits but this case was different. The client was awarded the Higher Rate of £85.60 per week. I received a handwritten note thanking me for my help and stating that the extra money the client was now receiving would go towards heating her home which will help with her aching joints. This case resonated with me because the client was clearly struggling to heat her home and the extra money made a huge difference to her quality of life. 5. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? There are always two sides to every story. This advice is vital in the advice and advocacy sector. 6. Finally, what would your advice be to older people in Northern Ireland? My advice would be to get in touch with Age NI if you have a difficulty or issue and you need help. We will endeavour to help resolve your difficulty, assist you with any issues you may have or signpost you to get specific help. In relation to benefit checks, please get in touch. We can find out if your are eligible for further financial assistance within 10 minutes by completing a free benefit check. If you or anyone you know are facing any of the issues please call our Advice and Advocacy service on Freephone 0808 808 7575. Click here to download the guide or call 0808 808 7575 for more information.