Erika Help is the chief executive of Rhondda Taf Citizens Advice Bureau on Gelliwastad Road in Pontypridd. In 2006 she secured funding for a European Social Fund initiative where the CAB would train up new volunteers.
I applied to this scheme and was given the chance to train in November 2006 by Erika Helps. The advice I was given was by email. But there was low moral and a lack of motivation among volunteers under Erika Help’s leadership, as the supverision we were given was inconsistent and did not give the right feedback to know our contribution was welcome.
Take an incident with me. I prepared a well thought out e-mail response referring to external sources, and was told I should only refer to what is in the computer system. Then the next email advice I gave I was told the opposite – I should not just write what was in the database but to refer to external sources. You can appreciate why I and others lacked the motivation to keep to time – we were after all giving up time we could spend doing something else! In 2008, just as I was standing for the election, Erika Helps sent my and many other volunteers a letter saying we were dismissed. We did not get an oral warning, a written warning, nor clearly a second written warning – If Erika Helps had been employing us she could have faced being hurled before an employment tribunal. Having made people’s posts redundant, I know it is best practice to speak it through with them first.
Recently, I asked Erika Helps for a reference for me to found a CAB and suggested the following:
I can confirm that Jonathan Bishop was a volunteer at the Rhondda Taff CAB between November 2006 and May 2008. Jonathan performed all tasks asked of him to a high standard and showed commitment to the ethos of the CAB set up by reconsigning issues such as confidentiality and providing a service which is also independent and impartial.
While at the CAB Jonathan completed a number of modules of the Generalist Advisor training, but could not complete it due to being unable to meet the volunteering time requirements on becoming a Town Councillor in Pontypridd in 2008.
Jonathan took a particular interest in providing email advice, and demonstrated great competence in using Advisernet. I wish him well with his endeavours and application to found an online CAB specialising in Internet advice.
Erika Helps described this as, “self-aggrandising”; can you believe that? I based this on a template that employment solicitors say to use to help their clients avoid getting sued for giving a bad reference. I would hate to be one of Erika Help’s former employees if she things this is ‘puffery’ – I think one of the people I follow on Twitter by the name of Horrible Boss would be proud of her!
All of my former employees, and even people who did not get past an interview for a job speak highly of me. I am regularly called on by former employees for a reference – the same probably can’t be true of Erika Helps if she treats her employees the way she treated me. I never treat my former employees and volunteers the way Erika Helps did me and others.
If Erika Helps had any decency in her, she would hand the Chancellor’s Medal from the University of Glamorgan back to her, as she is in my view a disgrace to the hard-working and decent volunteer leaders in RCT who treat their volunteers with respect and decency and not pieces of meat they can toss aside when they no longer need them. They deserve recognition more than Erika Helps does.