IT firm creates Covid-friendly hub to allow people to access Citizen’s Advice Service virtually

MEMBERS of the community will regain access to crucial services thanks to an IT firm.

Allteks has been engaged to provide Citizen’s Advice Southampton with technology which allows people who are struggling with IT or do not have access to technology at home to use the service virtually.

Since its offices closed to the public at the end of March due to government guidelines, the charity has been looking at how it can provide virtual meetings with people who need to access help. 

But some members of the community have been unable to use the service because of a lack of technology or understanding around how it works. 

The firm has built a virtual hub inside the city’s library, as a pilot, which allows one person at a time to use a computer that has an easy-to-use video conferencing platform installed allowing them talk to a member of the service who is working from home. 

It is a one-person room that is thoroughly sanitized between uses that sits within the council-owned building. 

The installation in Southampton was set up as a pilot, to allow the CAS and the firm to learn what worked and what didn’t, before the scheme was rolled out further to enable more organisations in Hampshire and the South East to use the service.

Liz Donegan, chief officer of Citizen’s Advice Southampton said: ‘CAS wants to share learning with more organisations in Hampshire and the South East to develop a solution with the potential to be used across different services in the future.’

Now, the National Lottery’s Covid-19 digital response funding via that Catalyst programme to address urgent issues affecting the most vulnerable will enable CAS to further develop and validate this concept supported by Allteks as its digital partner.

The partnership aims to deliver a working solution over the next 10 weeks.

As part of this programme, the lessons learnt in this process will be shared with several local charities and not-for-profit organisations with similar IT challenges. 

Chief Executive of the firm, Don Iro, from Southampton said: “We’re lucky that many of us have navigated through the lockdown because of having access to things like Zoom and Teams, but lots of people don’t have access to these things and are, in turn, losing out on the critical services that exist, such as Citizen’s Advice. 

“It’s not just a case of being able to log on and have a meeting with someone. That’s a massive element of it, but the most valuable part of the whole scheme is that peoples’ lives will benefit from being able to access these services.”

Allteks has been running for 20 years in February and is also working with organisations within the third sector such as local enterprise partnerships and local authorities. 

It provides cloud computing systems, co-managed IT services, disaster recovery and business VOIP solutions.