A report has raised the idea of using existing libraries and post offices to expand the gov services available on a local basis as part of a push for more community hubs.
The report, from a committee on community and public engagement, found that the island’s Sub Postmasters, who run the local sub-post masters were ‘extremely keen to be flexible in the gov services that they have the potential to offer within communities’.
However, as the sub-post offices are not actually considered part of the Post Office (PO) itself, both the PO and sub-postmasters said that uncertainty around the end of current gov contracts made it difficult to plan for the future, with it being noted that any ‘utilisation of space within the sub-post offices would likely have to be negotiated directly with each sub-postmaster.’ Further exploration into the role of the Post Office and sub-postmasters will be carried out as part of the ‘Access to Cash’ review by the DfE.
Similarly, the committee learned that the island’s libraries are already receiving daily enquiries about gov services and signposting members of the public to further help, highlighting the possibility of their inclusion in further hub plans as the report advises the use of existing spaces. The committee also referenced research around UK libraries being used to provide services outside of their usual remit including for NHS outreach.
The report comes after the launch of pilot hubs in Ramsey, Castletown and Peel run by the team from the Welcome Centre in Douglas and offering a similar service, including working with residents on ‘get online’ support. The hub in Ramsey Town Hall also sees weekly social security help and a ‘job club’ since the Social Security Division of the Treasury established a centre there in 2019.
The Peel hub was launched with the existing Western Wellbeing Partnership who bring together 23 organisations through a referral coordinator, which the report says: ‘has enabled service users to move more fluidly through services,’ with uninterrupted systems and processes despite lockdowns during the pandemic seeing the closure of their building.
Another aspect mentioned in the report was the idea of encouraging ‘hot desk’ use by public service staff to allow them to work remotely in a ‘comfortable and more social environment than working from home might allow,’ and cut down on commuting time.
Work on expanding the community hubs and officer work hubs will be continued by the ‘Working Differently’ group following the conclusion of the committee with plans to work alongside other gov departments and third sector organisations to increase offerings in these spaces.
The report concludes that the committee wishes to see a community hub team who can bring a ‘remote call centre type approach’ around the island. The public are invited to provide feedback on the concept of community hubs in a public survey (https://consult.gov.im/cabinetoffice/community-hubs/) as well as in the suggestion boxes placed within the hub buildings.