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Bethan's new role offers a lifeline to the vulnerable

In normal times Bethan Lee's main job includes the management of community library services that, among other things, delivers books to the housebound, the buying of books for our city's libraries and a raft of other things besides.

Bethan Lee

But these aren't normal times. Today you'll find Bethan working from home with a headset and a laptop helping to change the lives of some of Swansea's residents for the better.

For the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic Bethan is working from her living room while her husband works from the bedroom and their son does his schoolwork in the kitchen.

Instead of managing the strategic direction of the Central Library, buying books, sorting books and reading books, Bethan's now a virtual Helpline call centre team-leader at the heart of a hub supporting those who have been told to stay at home and shield themselves from the virus.

For them, Bethan and her newly-trained team are a lifeline.

Bethan said: "My normal job, as one of two Principal Librarians, involves working at the Civic Centre in Swansea where I oversee the purchasing of books and the management of the community library service and the eBook service.

"The last thing I did before I changed roles as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic was to start working on the end of the financial year information for the Library Service. Now, things couldn't be more different."

She said: "I remember colleagues putting a call out on a Tuesday back in March to say that they needed staff to provide a new, dedicated Helpline call centre service for those residents who were going to have to stay at home. I thought it was something I could do.

"I'm now a team leader of call handlers all working from home. Initially we started in the Civic Centre but now we work in a virtual call centre, each of us from our own homes. We all have headsets and laptops with software which allows us to communicate with one another and with residents who ring the dedicated Helpline.

"Logistically it's interesting. It's very different to normal working circumstances as I have a child and a husband around as they're also working from home. But if you told me a few months ago that in April I'd be working from home as a helpline team leader I'd never have believed you."

Bethan's role means she's supporting a Monday to Friday service from 9am to 4.30pm. The calls received are from some of the most vulnerable in Swansea; people at risk of harm from the virus and who are also without family, friends or trusted neighbours nearby to be able to support them.

Bethan also monitors the system at the weekend to check the voicemail in case any emergency issues have cropped up which need urgent attention.

She said: "Things can be very busy. Our role, as a dedicated Council Helpline, is to provide a service to those residents in need who have no-one else to support them like friends, neighbours or family.

"The majority of residents getting in touch with us are making food requests for the free weekly Welsh Government food parcel to which people on the shielded list are entitled.

"We're also here to help people who need signposting to other services, such as wellbeing advice from agencies such as Swansea Council for Voluntary Service. But sometimes you just don't know what kind of call you're going to get.

"As a librarian and working in a library setting providing excellent customer service is one of the main aspects of our job. Being a Helpline team leader is similar because it's customer focussed too. It's just a different type of enquiry.

"I am fortunate that the team that I lead is made up of staff from across Cultural Services including libraries, Glynn Vivian, Grand Theatre, Events, Swansea Museum and the Dylan Thomas Centre. Providing high levels of customer service is also paramount for these staff too. We are still helping people to get the things they need and that's the key objective for the Council."

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