Council launches innovative project to help residents affected by welfare reform

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Posted on: 22 November 2012

An innovative pilot project to support residents affected by the government welfare reforms is being launched by Devon County Council this week.

Delivered by the Council’s Library Service, the pioneering ‘Free Fridays’ scheme, will offer those seeking work or claiming benefits  free computer and internet access and a package of  support and advice in  their own communities each Friday. 

The pilot project is in response to the Government’s ‘Digital by Default’ strategy ,  helping those who are unable to use IT by proving free computer  training.

Taking place every Friday at Libraries in Ilfracombe, Tiverton and Ivybridge, the drop in sessions include two hours free internet access, with specialist help on offer such as searching and using websites, setting up and using an email account and how to search for jobs and information  on benefits . There will also be opportunities to improve skills in maths, reading and writing and help with managing a budget.

Specially trained and knowledgeable staff will be on hand to provide advice and support on everything from online form filling, and how to use the new Universal Credit and gov.uk websites to job seeking, cv writing and employability. They will also be able to signpost people to relevant local agencies who offer further support, and there are also plenty of books and online resources available.

Councillor Will Mumford, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Enterprise and Employment, said:

“In tough economic times such as this it is important that we do all we can to assist residents, particularly jobseekers and those who will be affected by the welfare changes.

“This scheme will be a valuable resource for those looking for work, by providing them with the opportunity to access a wide range of information, services and support all in one place.

“With the Government’s target of 80% of benefit claims being made online by 2013/14 it is also essential we help people access computers and support them with necessary training.

“By working with other local organisations, such as job Centre Plus, we can provide the most effective service possible which will enable people to be better informed of the support available to help them.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, who has responsibility for the library service, said:

“It is excellent that we are able to use our libraries to provide practical help to the local community during these difficult times.

“Our libraries are about far more than just books, and this project is just one of the ways we can help support residents by offering a whole range of resources and access to information.

“Libraries are at the heart of our communities. They are friendly safe places which are centrally located and familiar to most people, so offering these important services there means the community are more likely to come along and get the help and support they need.

“I would urge anyone affected by the changes to the benefits system or those looking for a job to go along and take advantage of the free resources and advice on offer.”

The pilot ‘Free Fridays’ project is taking place in Ivybridge Library, Tiverton Library and Ilfracombe Library.  If successful the model could roll out across the County during 2013.

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