Welfare Officer

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Our welfare officer

The Swiss Benevolent Society London employs a welfare officer, Petra Kehr-Cocks

Petra has been our welfare officer since January 2009.
Born and educated in Lausanne, Petra first came to England to study English in 1992 where she met her husband. After a short spell in Italy they both returned to England in 1995 and have remained here since. They have two boys aged 13 and 15.

A typical day as welfare officer
A typical day will usually involve a combination of a wide range of activities:

In addition to attending to a regular stream of correspondence and official paperwork I focus mainly on dealing with both regular and new clients as well as with their families and friends. This will either be by phone or, preferably, in the form of receiving them at our offices or visiting them in their own homes, hospitals or nursing homes, usually in the central or greater London area. In support of our clients, I frequently also have to liaise with social services, other government agencies, doctors, solicitors and other charities. Also, applications for financial support need to be obtained, assessed and processed. We currently support 19 Swiss citizens with a weekly pension.

New clients are getting in touch regularly, either for financial help or for general information and support which are often age or family related. Assistance and knowledge is sought on a very wide range of topics and we help wherever we can. Most of our clients will only get in touch with us when absolutely necessary, so we try to take a proactive stance to pre-empt any developing issues by staying in regular contact.

As an example of my work I wish to recount a situation in which I invested quite some time over the past year: we were asked by a friend of a lady in her early nineties and who was showing early signs of dementia whether we would be able to assist in any way. Even though the elderly lady was well liked and had many good friends, it soon became clear that there was still quite some scope for additional support. I visited her regularly and also helped her with some of her basic paperwork. Unfortunately, on one of my visits it became apparent that she needed to be hospitalised, where, despite professional help, she became increasingly confused. There was also an added problem as the lady had no next of kin and therefore lacked any family support. Her hospital stay was an opportunity to get social services involved and to make them aware of some additional issues surrounding the lady. Subsequently, but at her request, I made contact with her solicitor who was able to take the appropriate action. Now, a few months later and after an improvement in her wellbeing she is in a safer situation and private nursing care is being offered to her for when she feels she will be ready to move on.

Finally, I attend to the bookkeeping and as Company Secretary for the Society I deal with Companies House, the Charity Commission, the Gift Aid authority and HMRC.

All told, my days are very busy!