When Geoff Cousins retired from a career in finance six years ago, he knew he needed something to keep his brain ticking over.
He said: “Just sitting around or pottering in the garden all day long was not for me. I come from Gravesend so I have always known about the original Lions hospice and about ellenor. When I saw they had a volunteer financial support role vacancy on their website, it seemed the ideal thing to apply for.
“For me, it was a way to continue seeing people. It’s easy to lose that network of colleagues and friends when you finish work, and I wanted to keep seeing people face to face.”
Now Geoff dedicates the equivalent of about a day to the hospice every week, and his knowledge is vital to ellenor’s Financial Support Service. The service helps with benefits claims, grant applications, housing and health costs and transport concessions such as Blue Badges. It also offers support to patients and their families about working and pension rights, life insurance, wills and financial planning, although this often involves signposting the patient to an outside organisation or service.
Geoff said: “When people get something like a cancer diagnosis, budgeting and finance are not the first things on their minds. We often end up working with sons or daughters on behalf of their parents. If we just take a little of the burden away, then it’s worth it."
“It’s nice to be in a position where I can make a difference."
"There are also benefits for me, I’m doing something I feel is rewarding. I also wanted to volunteer for my own wellbeing, to keep my mind active. I started work at 16 and retired at 62, so that’s over 40 years working.
“The time commitment at ellenor does vary because it depends on how many referrals we are dealing with. There are just two of us running the service at the moment, myself and Anne Wilkinson. It would be good to have a few more on board, especially when we have a lot of referrals.
“We always have a great deal to learn. We are not experts or financial advisers, but are able to offer support at what can be a very difficult time for patients and their families. When new things come along, we can do a bit of research.
“We do try and deal with each case as quickly as possible, but we can always prioritise urgent cases over less pressing things like blue badge applications. It’s crucial to help people get the benefits they are entitled to. Often, they don’t even know they are entitled to them, or believe they are eligible."