Meet our First Step team!

Ever wondered who is on the other end of the line when you call Henshaws?

Want to know about groups for visually impaired people in your local area? Or need some support cooking? Our First Step team are your first point of contact with us, providing confidential and impartial advice and information, or directing you to the person you need to speak to.

We asked them to introduce themselves;

Charley

“I have probably spoken to most of you already on the phone as I am one of the voices you hear when you call Henshaws. I am an information, advice and guidance advisor for First Step and Friendship Matters; my job includes answering the telephone, supporting the Friendship Matters groups, and giving information about Henshaws groups and services to our new referrals.”

Maria

“I work as part of the First Step team here at Henshaws. I am based in Tameside on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays and offer information, advice and guidance over the phone and face-to-face. I joined the team in November and am really looking forward to getting stuck in. In my free time, I enjoy windsurfing, sailing and socialising with friends and family!”

Ruth

“When I was an Art student, quite a few years ago, I volunteered to be a ‘reader’ for a student who had a visual impairment, who was studying on a very different course to the one I was undertaking. This involved reading and transcribing in-depth course work, which turned out to be in a completely different language to that of my own – sometimes known as Wiganese!

I became aware of many issues regarding accessibility and inequality that this student at the time faced. Thankfully times have moved on from then and visual awareness has increased in colleges as well as accessible technology which makes studying more enjoyable and less of a barrier to learning. I eventually became a Rehabilitation Officer in visual impairment working in the community.  I have always wanted to work for Henshaws,  because of the understanding of the needs and rights of people with a visual impairment, and the support services that are set up to promote independence and enable the person to get on with life.

So here I eventually am, working as a member of the First Step team, and as a Patient Support Officer at Altrincham hospital. My role involves supporting the patient in the clinic, providing advice and information, sometimes acting as an advocate, and referring to appropriate services with the person’s permission.

I feel very privileged because I am working with two teams who are very friendly and helpful both in the hospital and at Henshaws, and it is a pleasure to work with them all.”

Marie

“I have been involved with Henshaws for almost 5 years. Most of this time I was supporting a member of staff who was visually impaired. In April this year, I am happy to say I became an employee! My title is CEO – otherwise known as Community Engagement Officer!

Part of my role is to raise the profile of Henshaws and create a greater awareness of what we offer. I focus on building new relationships with other agencies and services to ensure they are confident to provide information about Henshaws,  ensuring our VI community receive information about all the services and support that are available for them.

I also get involved in all the really fun stuff around organising our Friendship Matters groups. I count myself very lucky to work within a business that I am passionate about. The reward of seeing people getting out and about socialising and having a great laugh is invaluable.

I work as part of a great team within the Merseyside office and I have the support of great volunteers – I couldn’t do it without them!”

Matthew

“I manage the team and help out on the phones and emails; I love chatting to people and helping them think up solutions to their problems. We can’t always help so we try and make sure we find an organisation that can.”

Read more about our First Step team, or get in touch on 0300 222 5555 or at info@henshaws.org.uk to speak to them for yourself!  Our lines are open weekdays between 9am and 4.30pm, but you can leave a message at any time to be picked up the next working day.

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