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Phone Referral

If you answer calls for your group and give some of the callers information about other organisations, here are a few notes that may be useful.

Be clear about your own and your organisation's role and limits

Are you just providing information? Or support (listening to problems, exploring options) and/or doing things on callers' behalf (eg searching the net, making phone calls to see if other organisations can help)?

Make sure information on hand is up-to-date and appropriate.

If you're giving a particular organisation's number out a lot, contact the organisation to check that your referrals are appropriate.

If a request seems obscure, (eg a rare condition) ask if it has another name or if it is connected with something else. Give the person a chance to say how it affects them. A more general group (e.g pain, respiratory) may include their condition.

Some callers may not know how (or if) your organisation can help. It may be useful if you can summarise in a few readily understood words what you organisation does and what you CAN do that is relevant.

People calling on behalf of a friend or relative

Sometimes there are good reasons for this. In addition to providing the caller with some info, it may be an idea to ask if the person concerned is there and if they would like to get on the phone, or to suggest that the person may like to phone themselves another time.

Some people have tried lots of places and gone round in circles and got fed up. It may be more useful to focus on clarifying their options rather than giving them lots more phone numbers. Don't get drawn into criticism of other organisations.

It may be useful to read out a bit about an organisation (from their leaflet, for example) and then ask the person if they would like the number for that organisation.

Don't give the caller expectations about what another organisation can do, eg "I'm sure they'll be able to help you."

Giving phone numbers

It may be useful to ask if the person would like to read the numbers back to check them. Some people (due to age, learning disability, etc) need phone numbers to be dictated 2 (or even 1) digits at a time.

If the caller has raised several issues and got numbers for several organisations, it may be useful to go over the list at the end of the call and make sure they are clear about which numbers are for which issues

More information
Hand-out: Being a Phone Contact for a Support Group
Booklet prepared by Self Help Nottingham

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