Spotlight On June Macdonald
I have been a Medical Assessment Buddy with West Lothian Council's Advice Shop for around 4 years now. However, my first step into volunteering was with YAP (Youth Action Project).
I worked with 2 other volunteers and we spoke to groups of young people to find out what type of activities or excursions they would like to get involved in within the local area. We also issued condoms to the young people. I was working part-time in the Tower Bar and had just completed my degree in Communication when I started volunteering with YAP but when I got the full-time post of Support Worker with Choices (Care in the Community), I didn't have enough time to volunteer on the project as it involved working weekends so I had to give it up.
Unfortunately, my mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and I had to stop working. I cared for my mum and dad until my mum was admitted to a care home. As I was only caring for my dad, I had a bit more time so I decided to look into volunteering again. The Advice Shop was advertising for IT Buddies and Medical Assessment Buddies at the time and as I only knew the basics about computers, I decided I liked the sound of the MA Buddy role!
My application was successful and I completed all the relevant training. The training was really good and gave me a good insight into the people I would be helping and the problems they were facing. After the training, we were taken around all the Assessment centres. I found this really helpful as I didn't know my way around Edinburgh. The training really helped me to understand what was involved in the role.
As a MA Buddy, I have to meet the customer for a pre-assessment meeting. At the meeting I introduce myself to the customer and go through the questions they will be asked at the assessment. I jot down the answers so that, if their mind goes blank during the medical, I can prompt them. I don't answer the questions for them, but can prompt from my notes. On the day of the assessment, I arrange to meet them outside the assessment centre. However, if they are very nervous about travelling, I will travel on the train with them. I am there to provide support, encouragement and to be a listening ear.
I think this is a really worthwhile role as it helps customers to attend assessments as many wouldn't make it without the support of a volunteer. Having the support allows them to be more prepared, and not quite as anxious, as following the pre-assessment meeting, they know the format of the assessment and what questions they will be asked. And in the end, it helps them to get the benefits that they are entitled to and means one less person using the Food Bank!