Library and Job Centre staff join forces to reduce poverty in Conwy
The Wales Co-operative Centre is currently running its fourth annual Tackling Poverty Fortnight campaign.
The campaign will demonstrate a number of ways in which the Centre is helping to reduce poverty through the projects it runs, the businesses and organisations it supports and the people who are the end beneficiaries of that support.
Today we look at one example of the work that has been supported by Digital Communities Wales – the Welsh Government digital inclusion project that is being delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre.
Digital Communities Wales (DCW) works with a range of organisations to support people as they look for work. This support is usually provided in a community setting and can help people to write a CV on a computer, set up an e-mail address to enable contact with potential employers and to conduct job searches through Universal Jobmatch.
A good example of this is taking place in Conwy, where library services and Job Centre Plus (JCP) are collaborating to help meet the needs of the community. Libraries are playing an increasingly important role in providing people with access to computers and the internet, while staff and volunteers help them with new skills and advice.
All frontline staff in Conwy Libraries have received training from DCW. Library staff play a key role signposting and supporting people to find and complete information online, and in the general use of computers, devices and the internet. The DCW sessions have been particularly helpful in building confidence amongst staff, helping them to recognise their own skills and their contribution in supporting others. Raising an awareness around specific websites, such as Universal Jobmatch and Universal Credit has also been invaluable.
In Conwy, the Library Service and Job Centre Plus have been working together to achieve a better understanding of each other’s services, through an initial shadowing exercise between librarians and JCP staff. This contact and discussion has enabled improved partnership working and has encouraged a sharing of resources and ideas, taking a joint approach to meeting the needs of the community.
As well as an increase in referrals to libraries and a subsequent increase in library membership, there is now a greater understanding of the type of digital support required by jobseekers as a result of DCW training, and the shadowing process.
In addition, regular weekly appointments for claimants with a JCP Work Coach are held in the library.
“Partnership working such as this is helping to break down the barriers to employment. Up to 16 customers per week attend the library sessions; the aim being to offer supported job searching, which has included help with CVs, application forms, interview techniques and much more. Customers also have access to the full range of library services and have made use of the self-help books and accessed the online magazines, which has improved their job search greatly.
Without exception, feedback from customers has been extremely positive. The informal and relaxed environment has helped build a better relationship between myself as a work coach and my customers, whilst still having those challenging conversations.
On one occasion, just by chance, CAIS (Cyngor Alcohol Information Service) were also using the library to promote their ‘At your service’ and ‘Crew It’ opportunities. I was able to identify suitable applicants and pass them through for an informal discussion. As a result, 2 of my customers secured paid employment of 22 hours per week in an environment they wouldn’t have otherwise considered. Two other customers have also started the ‘Crew It’ course which has helped them gain qualifications in Basic Food Hygiene and Health & Safety in the Workplace. This in turn will hopefully lead to paid employment.”
[JCP Work Coach, Colwyn Bay Library]
The shadowing exercise has also highlighted to partners that libraries can support the holistic approach to an individual’s circumstances to help them overcome barriers to employment. For example, time an individual spends developing their confidence and social skills, improving practical skills and knowledge through reading and research, can count towards their Claimant Commitment.
“One of the people attending the (JCP) session hopes to go self employed as a photographer. He had apparently been reluctant to meet at the library, but is now glad that he did as he has signed up to the free Zinio magazine download service and is impressed that he can get free access to Amateur Photographer magazine, all of which counts towards his Claimant Commitment.”
[Librarian, Colwyn Bay]
“We have already referred a number of our customers, including a lady who wasn’t aware of any services offered at the library including the IT sessions. She also has a daughter with a young child who we’ve referred for the story time sessions, this family have been economically inactive for many years so we’re hoping this is the first step towards them getting out of the poverty trap”
[JCP Work Coach]