Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington
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Home Secretary Service

The Home Secretary service is a home visiting service to help older people with everyday paperwork.

  • The Home Secretary service can support an older person to deal with problems such as utility bills and making phone calls to resolve queries
  • The service also helps older people to keep in touch with family and friends via letter writing, e-mail and Skype
  • Additionally, the service provides regular companionship to recipients

About the Home Secretary Service Service

The home secretary service was launched by Age Concern North Yorkshire in 2007 in the Harrogate District (and in Ripon in 2010) in response to mounting evidence that one of the biggest issues that faced older people was dealing with paperwork, along with isolation and loneliness. There may be many reasons why an older person may find dealing with paperwork difficult: loss of their spouse or partner, frailty, physical problems such as visual impairment and arthritis, just being some examples. It was evident that not being able to deal with paperwork could cause an older person additional problems such an anxiety, stress and difficulty sleeping.

Compound this with loneliness and isolation and not being able to deal with paperwork could potentially lead to loss of independence and the ability to remain at home. The home secretary service provides the beauty of companionship (with the continuity of the same volunteer on a regular basis) and the practicality of dealing with paperwork.

Provides Companionship & Support
Staying in touch with Friends & Family
Assistance with Paying Bills

How the Service Helps

Older people are often at a disadvantage when it comes to making informed choices, such as which utility company could provide them with a similar service, but for cheaper. Not having access to the internet, or the ability to get out and about, can also put an older person at a disadvantage. The home secretary service can support an older person to make an informed choice by providing ‘price comparison’ information on utility bills and other services. The home secretary service cannot provide financial or legal advice.

With the beauty of the same volunteer providing a regular visit, building up a friendly relationship, an additional benefit of the service is spotting problems early. This may be recognizing that their client’s health is not as good as it usually is, that they cannot get out as much as they used to or perhaps the mis-selling of goods and services. The home secretary service is operated within very clear boundaries. A volunteer who has any concerns about their client can contact the home secretary co-ordinator, who will then investigate and/or contact appropriate professionals such as their GP, NYCC social services, Trading Standards, family or friends (where consent is given).

How it Works

Since 2007, the home secretary service has provided support to 267 in Harrogate & District and Ripon. After having an initial ‘holistic’ assessment where written consent is gained, this confidential, free service, can support a client to access other services, such as having a Welfare & Benefits check through Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington’s information & advice service, make referrals to social services for an occupational or needs assessment, signpost to other voluntary sector organizations and encourage a client to engage in more social interaction (health permitting).

Referrals can be made to the Home Secretary Service from health professionals, social services, individual. Prior consent must be gained before making a referral. The service is confidential and volunteers are DBS checked.

Did you know?

Since 2007 over 267 older people have been supported by the Home Secretary Service

Home Secretary Service Case Studies

Rita Keeps in Touch with Friends

Miss Rita Paolozzi, 94 years, lives alone in her bungalow and a client since 2008: “I’ve had the home secretary service for many years. I used to a bit of globe-trotter and have gathered friends from all over the world. I can no longer write or hear on the telephone. I’m also housebound. Without my home secretary volunteer I couldn’t stay at home or stay in touch with my friends. I really love the visits from my volunteer, she’s like a true friend. She’s patience and very good at writing the letters for me. I do find I’m forgetful now and my volunteer is so good at reading my mail (my eyes are bad now) and she never lets me forget anything – including my sister’s birthday!” said Rita.

Companionship and Support

Miss Dorothy Chard, 97 years old, lives alone in her semi-detached house and a client since 2008: “I used to be a legal secretary and always thought I could do everything myself. When I started to lose my eye sight in 2007 I felt really afraid and alone. A friend told me about the home secretary service and I thought I give it a go. It’s 10 years since I started using the service and I can honestly say without the support of my volunteer I probably would have had to go into a nursing home, which I would have refused! I’m fiercely independent and like my privacy. The companionship I get from my volunteer is priceless to me,” said Dorothy.

Helped me to stop being so Anxious

Mrs Margaret Fairclough, 80 years old and sole-carer to her husband who has dementia and client since 2016: “When Charlotte came to see me I was at breaking point. Rod my husband was always in-charge of the paperwork, but now he can’t do it. I felt overwhelmed and very weepy. I just kept looking at the piles of paper and didn’t know where to start. Since Charlotte started supporting me she’s helped me get a Council Tax refund, back-dated to November 2015 as Rod is exempt. She’s helped me to switch energy suppliers and to write to my bank and Rod’s pension providers to let them know I have Power of Attorney. Recently Charlotte’s linked me with my own volunteer Les. He’s so understanding and calm. I get flustered by anything that drops through the letter box. I now put it all in a pile and Les looks through it each week, he then files it and shreds my junk mail and anything confidential. Asking for the support of the home secretary has really helped me to stop being so anxious and feeling very alone.”

Home Secretary Service Testimonials

"A work-life Balance"

Caitlin Storey, a home secretary volunteer since 2010 has supported a number of clients. She’s recently had her second child and has returned to full-time work. Caitlin and her home secretary client have built a very good working relationship and now a friendship. “Volunteering is such a contrast between my home and working life. Volunteering is not only very rewarding, but it helps with my work-life balance,” said Caitlin.


"So Glad I'm a Volunteer"

Michael Hughes, has been volunteering with the home secretary service since 2011. He currently has a long-standing home secretary client, who suffers from very low moods. “I visit Malcolm once a week. He can be very ‘silent’ at times. He does have quite a lot of paperwork, which he leaves for me. I’ve been visiting for a few years now, sometimes he can be chatty, and sometimes says nothing,” said Michael.  “Having said that, we are both comfortable and I’m keen to listen when Malcolm is ready to talk. He’s an amazing person, with an incredible background in research science and worked on developing X-ray machines. He is highly intellectual and I’ve learnt so much from him. When I retired I felt I still had so much to give. I’m so glad I’m a volunteer.”

Michael Hughes

Home Secretary Service Location & Contacts

This service operates from:

Age UK Harrogate

Harrogate Community House
46 - 50 East Parade,

01423 530628

Monday to Friday: Mon, Tues, Thurs 9:30AM -3PM
Saturdays: N/A
Sundays: N/A

Home Secretary Service Contact Details:

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Age UK Darlington is a registered charity (Registered Charity No. 1128377) registered in England and Wales as a Limited Company no. 6817492). Registered address: Bradbury House, Beaumont Street West, Darlington, County Durham, DL1 5SX.

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