Thursday, August 15, 2019

Buzz IT – a new West Lancashire project taking the sting out of using the Internet

West Lancashire Borough Council is working with West Lancashire Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) and Citizens Advice Lancashire, to help more residents get on the internet.

The Buzz IT project poses a core question: “If the internet were a neighbourhood, what would it look like to you?” To some West Lancashire residents, it is ‘a familiar place’ where they work, shop and socialise. For others, it can feel like a ‘gated community’, a place they have no idea how to enter, or a ‘dangerous place’ in which they fear for their safety.

With more and more services changing to being available online only, Buzz IT aims to break down some of the barriers stopping people using the internet and decrease the risk of exclusion from those services.

Helen Jones, project lead, explains the project is not about ‘forcing’ people to go online, but about accurate information to help people make choices.

Buzz IT also aims to:

  • Provide information on changes to public services
  • Raise awareness of local venues with free internet access
  • Explore residents’ concerns and barriers to going online
  • Create volunteer digital champions across the borough
  • Promote sources of support and learning

Helen said: "West Lancashire has enormous strengths we are seeking to make more visible, such as the local volunteers helping others to use a computer for the first time. We want to encourage more people to consider the benefits of volunteering for themselves and their community.”

The project will provide packs to help community groups recruit and develop volunteer digital champions, with training available through West Lancashire Council for Voluntary Service.

One source of help is the Citizens Advice Digital Help Centre in the Concourse, Skelmersdale. Its volunteer digital champions support people to take up free ‘Learn My Way’ online courses on a range of computer skills and uses of the internet.

Guy Simpson, Advice Services Manager for Citizens Advice Lancashire, explains: “We are able to offer one-to-one support from our Digital Help Centre where our volunteer digital champions help clients to access digital services and gain skills to become more confident online."

West Lancashire Borough Council is encouraging residents to register with its new online self-service customer portal for routine requests.

Councillor Ian Moran, Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council, said: "The Council is very pleased to be working with West Lancashire CVS and Citizens Advice Lancashire on this exciting project to help more people to feel comfortable using the internet. I would encourage people to get involved with the project as getting more out of the internet could make a huge difference to their lives."

For more details about Buzz IT, please contact Helen Jones, West Lancashire CVS, helenj@wlcvs.org, 01695 733737. For more about Learn My Way, visit the Citizens Advice Digital Help Centre or your local library.

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