Inside Vinnies Call Centre
What happens after a call comes into the call centre?
At 3.00pm the Box Hill Call Centre phone system shuts down and our volunteers finish up the calls they are on and the ones that were in the queue. Manager Judith Cooke or Sue Jones then collates the calls and emails or phones them through to the Vinnies Conferences to follow up. There are a number of other call centres around Victoria so Box Hill calls mostly come from metropolitan Melbourne.
Vinnies has around 270 conferences, or volunteer-led groups, around Victoria. A member takes the details of the calls and distributes to a volunteer who arranges to visit the caller.
The volunteers, who work in teams of two, meet the person in their homes and while delivering assistance – such as food vouchers or paying rent or utility arrears – will sit and have a chat.
Vinnies feels it is important to listen to people tell their story and try to understand the bigger picture of what is going on in their lives so that the assistance we deliver is personalised. We work alongside people to improve their situation, which may include offering other services, such as free financial planning, education or training options etc.
As well as food and bills, Vinnies also helps families with furniture, clothing and back-to-school expenses – or even gets an old bike fixed to get someone mobile again.
To illustrate the journey of how Vinnies ‘good works’ is administered – we have followed up two of the calls our volunteers took earlier in the week. Conference volunteers below recount how they responded to the calls – we changed the identifying elements of the callers.
“The lady from this call had been put in emergency accommodation with her child. First of all, I called her to assess the situation and check what it was that she needed to make sure we had it right – and to make a time to meet her.
“Because she was in temporary accommodation in a hotel, she didn’t have any cooking facilities so I packed her a different food hamper especially with food that she and her child would be able to prepare in their room. We also gave her some vouchers to use at the supermarket.
“I tend to take the first call someone makes at face value and don’t ask too many questions. It’s when a few calls from the same person come in that we make a time to sit down with the person or the family and try to get a picture of what’s going on.”
Leslie followed up a call from a woman on disability benefit with a number of teenage children, who had called Vinnies for help with food. After phoning her to arrange a time to visit, Leslie dropped in $100 worth of food vouchers. He said: “Every call is different. When kids are involved, we try to do a bit more.”