Would a ‘virtual’ CAB for hard to reach communities be an effective addition to our advice service in Northamptonshire?

Would a ‘virtual’ CAB for hard to reach communities be an effective addition to our advice service in Northamptonshire?.


About northamptoncabcommunitylink

I am working on a project with Northampton & District Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). CAB's were established in the centre of towns and cities across the UK to operate at the heart of local communities, bringing practical benefits to people, many of whom are disadvantaged and socially excluded. Since then population growth and the development of urban sprawl, has meant town and city centres are no longer the main focal point for large groups of residents, and rural communities are even further removed from our services. Our project will explore the use of digital technologies to target and engage hard to reach communities , and establish a sustainable, well utilised advice services presence as part of a virtual community – in short, the creation of ‘Your Neighbourhood CAB’. Face to face advice services are expensive to provide, and therefore CAB is not able to maintain a physical presence at the heart of every local community. In this current economic climate and rapidly changing social scene, we need to find innovative ways to reduce costs, and bring outreach services into the 21st century, maximising access via social media (Facebook & Twitter) and other digital communications channels. Establishing our presence as an informed guest supplier in community space is one our main aims ,and we welcome the opportunity to be part of the Northants Community web forum project. The final phase of our project will then use the relationships and presence established in local communities to trial remote webcam/SKYPE access to confidential advice services.
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8 Responses to Would a ‘virtual’ CAB for hard to reach communities be an effective addition to our advice service in Northamptonshire?

  1. tina says:

    digital inclusion is the way forward – not everyone can visit a CAB office in working hours so a virtual CAB would make the service more accessible and available. An idea might be to set up a forum to enable the sharing of experiences for example to do with benefits, employment etc

    • Jeanette says:

      Agree absolutely need to get into the 21st century! However, need to consider that a lot of these areas tend to end up being ‘whinge’ fests and do go off track quite easily and I have certainly seen this from some that I participate in so it needs to be built into the equation and actively managed.

      • Tina says:

        Jeanette yes that’s the key – actively managed.
        A virtual CAB with other agencies participating would also be fantastic!
        CAB needs to Reach communities – outreach can be expensive and can only reach a small number of clients but a virtual CAB could be accessed from smart phones and not limited to certain hours

  2. r grant says:

    Oh yes, I certainly think so !

  3. Kate says:

    I think social media has it’s place – I don’t think it creates community in it’s truest sense however from a Well-being perspective (my line of work) – I think that a virtual forum/ community is useful for those that may find it difficult to engage with services/ attend appointments (maybe a result of anxiety, or another reason) – they can access support within the comfort of their own home. I do though also think it is important that people within communities feel empowered to make positive choices for themselves and their future, and are equipped to overcome challenges (e.g. if someone finds it hard to go to appointments due to a social anxiety, let’s empower the individual to learn ways of overcoming this). So I think social media has it’s place alongside other tools.

  4. Noel H says:

    I great idea in theory, however I think there would need to be a very clear differentiation between any “expert” advice/communications given by trained CAB staff and potentially innacurate, out of date or misleading information from peer blogs.

  5. Margaret says:

    Agree with Noel, anything using the CAB brand needs to be managed carefully. Might be worth benchmarking with other brands that use this medium to see how they deal with issues that could potentially compromise professionalism and integrity. I applaud the intent and if you can find a way to make it work for the community – perhaps through a trial – who knows where it might lead.

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