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LawCare held a helpline training day for Irish volunteers in Dublin during the summer. As well as the trained staff who answer helpline calls, there is a valued network of volunteers in each of the jurisdictions who also have a background in the legal profession and who provide their services free of charge.
LawCare provides helpline training to all volunteers, giving detailed background to the charity itself, its purpose, how the helpline works, and how volunteers can best support callers.
The volunteers also learn how to answer the phone, reassuring the caller that everything said is completely confidential, and then listening empathetically, asking open questions and discussing the problem. Calls are normally limited to one hour, and are summarised at the end of that time, with an invitation to the caller to call back at any time.
“The helpline training day was facilitated by the Law Society of Ireland through Louise Campbell, who is one of our two Irish trustees,” explains Mary Jackson, LawCare Coordinator for Ireland. “We had three volunteers on the day, who asked excellent questions and provided reflections and suggestions throughout.”
The training day was split into two: LawCare gives an overview of its service and its method of working, and there’s an opportunity for volunteers to try out their skills via four case studies. The second half of the day was run by Sarah Hill of the Helplines Partnership, the membership body for organisations that provide helpline services in the UK and internationally. This section focusses on the practicalities of working on a helpline, with emphasis on the tone of voice, words used, active listening skills, questioning techniques, how to end calls, and how to cope with difficult ones.
“We also added two new words to our vocabulary,” adds Ms Jackson. “These were ‘soundscape’ and ‘verbal nods’, such as ‘mm mmm’ to encourage the caller and let them know we are still listening to them.
“There was a great sense of camaraderie, and we’re confident the Irish helpline is in safe hands.”
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