End of an era at Telecross Charlestown: call centre volunteers to put down the phone for the final time

TIME CALLED: Redcross manager Ben Clark at the Charlestown Telecross call centre, which will cease operations at the end of May after nearly 10 years. Picture: Marina Neil.
TIME CALLED: Redcross manager Ben Clark at the Charlestown Telecross call centre, which will cease operations at the end of May after nearly 10 years. Picture: Marina Neil.

Charlestown’s Telecross call centre will cease operations at the end of the month with the Red Cross-run organisation shifting services to Blacktown and home-based voluntary work. 

Red Cross said the end of the centre, which has over 50 volunteers, is exercising “financial stewardship” and a “transition”, not a closure. 

But it’s come as a blow to centre workers, many of whom are retirees that get as much from the centre as the recipients they call. 

“I’ve been there for five years,” volunteer Trevor Wilkinson said.

“We’re all pretty down about it.

“I just love talking to older people, they can offer so much insight. I spoke to a lady the other day who was 102 and she was still at home, that’s inspiring. The only thing she doesn’t do is cook, does her own washing and cleaning.

“People like that just need the confidence that they can stay in their home and someone checks up on them everyday.”

The centre calls registered recipients daily, predominately to check on their welfare.

Calls can be made to anywhere in the state and are done randomly each day. 

The service is as much a social call as it is welfare, as most recipients are elderly and live alone. Callers are made aware of recipient’s birthdays and special dates. 

A Hunter service has been operating since 2009. 

Red Cross regional operations manager Ben Clark said the calls are vital. 

“We had one our clients get up and our annual function recently and talk about the joy and security they feel from receiving a call,” he said.

“That friendly voice on the other end of the telephone is important.”

However, Mr Clark said the organisation has a financial responsibility to uphold.

“Our numbers [call recipients] have been dropping since 2016,” he said. 

“It’s no longer viable to keep the two call centres [Charlestown and Blacktown] open.

“We are able to re-absorb all of our volunteers into other programs and no client services will be disrupted.”

Call recipients in the Hunter are also encouraged to switch to the “community-based model” of volunteers calling from home, or be called from Blacktown.

The centre will cease operations on May 25.

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