A £220,000 two-year project to take Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) services out of Flintshire’s towns and into the countryside is being launched across the county.
The Rural Advice and Digital Enhancement Project – supported by the Flintshire Local Action Group and funded through rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd – aims to enable people in isolated rural communities to get answers to their issues and problems without leaving their local village.
Flintshire CAB held its first outreach meeting at Talacre last month and a further 18 are scheduled to reach all the rural areas.
Project Leader Jo Smith said: “We’re making the service more accessible because many people who need our help and support find it difficult to make their way into the towns where our offices are.
“Instead we will come to them at these meetings to tell them how they can access our services through a digital link-up and provide a training package to help people use that link to make our services more available.
“Not everyone in the rural areas has a car or can rely on public transport but they can easily connect with us through personal computers and get a fast response to their questions.”
The scheme is funded through LEADER Flintshire Local Action Group and there is still £600,000 up for grabs from a pot of £2.5 million. This project received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government as part of a six-year plan to revitalise rural communities and their economies.
Cadwyn Clwyd Project Officer Helen Williams said: “This is a really important outreach scheme which brings excellent advice from the CAB’s trained advisers within reach of everyone.
“The good news for rural Flintshire is that there is still £600,000 of funding up for grabs in the county and we are keen to hear proposals for schemes that we can support across the county and we will work with our Local Action Group, made up of people from within the community, to identify them and make them happen.”
Flintshire CAB is working with Coleg Cambria to train people to use tablet computers to contact their two digital caseworkers with responses within a maximum of three working days.
Their team led by Jo Smith will visit the communities across Flintshire to spread the message that advice is just a mouse click away and set up sessions for Coleg Cambria to provide hands-on training at venues across the county so people in rural areas can easily access the online service.
Jo Smith added: “We have established great relationships with community councils across the county and many of them already provide digital connections at local community centres and these could be used to provide a link to the CAB.
“The idea of this campaign is to make the initial contact with people in the rural communities so that we can develop a sustainable link so that they can easily access our services.”
Vivien Sims, from Talacre, was one of those at the Talacre session and she said: “I came along because I knew the CAB were going to be here and I have had a tree come down and cause a lot of damage.
“It should be a very useful service because when you need advice you can contact them easily and I can get my niece to help me get connected.”
Cadwyn Clwyd Manager Lowri Owain said: “As a company, we’ve been very successful in attracting funding and in helping to get projects realised and we work with a wide range of projects.
“We still have money available for projects across all aspects of Flintshire rural life from access to services, tourism, food production and job creation to improving community facilities and encouraging community entrepreneurship.
“It will mean that the local economy in rural Flintshire will continue to diversity and develop.”
Last year Citizens Advice Flintshire’s 75 volunteers gave 650 hours of advice each week to help over 6,700 clients and dealt with more than 28,000 advice issues, including resolving £6.6 million of debts.
The charity, which is staging a sponsored Sleep-Out at Connah’s Quay on Saturday, March 23, to highlight the problems of homelessness, helped local people access almost £5 million in income and answered 1,411 calls to Adviceline Cymru.
For more information about LEADER funds and which projects could be eligible for support, contact Cadwyn Clwyd on 01490 340500, email: email@example.com