THE new base of the Nairn Citizens Advice Bureau in King Street will revolutionize services when it opens in July.
Customers will be able to access computers in a new Community Digital Access Center (CDA) and training room, partly funded by the Nairn Rotary Club.
And members of the public, unable to use computers or without internet access, will receive specialist support to make their social security claims online by trained volunteers.
Gill MacLean, head of CAB in Nairn, said claimants have faced the move to digital media to manage and access their social security claims.
“Applicants are expected to manage Universal Credit online and submit information through their online log. There is a risk of being penalized and losing benefits if you are unable to do so.
“Universal Credit payments may go up and down as circumstances change and you must be able to upload information to your online log.
“Not everyone can do this and if you have a change in your circumstances you are expected to report it online.”
In just one week, Ms MacLean said Nairn CAB had provided support for 25 people to apply for the low-income pandemic payment to ensure the money was paid into their bank account so they could buy food and other necessities rather than being transferred as a deduction. on their residence tax account.
“Those eligible for help from the Fuel Support Fund must also apply online and we can provide that support as well.
“But the new digital resource center will allow us to provide specialist support to people so they can manage their own accounts and apply for the help they are entitled to, including community care grants. If they have a computer they can do it themselves at home but if they don’t we can reassure them we will have staff here who will help them with free and supported access to a bank of computers with sound own hub and server.
“At the moment in our High Street office we only have one interview room and our computers are connected to our own server which is not satisfactory.
“The library provides access to computers. And while that’s satisfying for people who know how to manage their accounts, the support we can provide will help those who can’t. So we’re not duplicating the library’s service.”
Ms MacLean said CAB also has an energy advisor to help customers find the best rate from their existing suppliers.
“Unfortunately, due to the current gas and electricity crisis, customers cannot easily switch suppliers and get a better deal. But we can help them find the best rates available from their current supplier.
“The digital hub will also be a place of training for Nairn CAB volunteers and staff but also for members of the public and those providing support to the most vulnerable.
“We will have a space to offer information sessions on, for example, pension credit or care allowance.
“As the digital hub can stand alone, it will also be available for other groups.”
Ms MacLean added: “We are grateful to the support of the late Cllr Tom Heggie for his invaluable support to the CAB and other local members (HC) who supported the project.
“Tom was not only a huge supporter of CAB but also of our clients. He made a real difference in people’s lives. He was kind and compassionate and non-judgmental. And whenever we had to refer something to him for investigation, he was making sure it was done.”
Highland Council has been censured by the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman for its handling of the allocation of £198,000 of Scottish Government Town Center funding money to support the new CAB office which is incorporated into a development comprising a block of 12 apartments.
Community council representatives complained that the decision to award the money was made behind closed doors and that other organizations were not given the opportunity to apply for the funds.
This financing represents 27% of the overall cost of the project.
Funding also comes from Nairn CAB’s 10-year fundraising; Citizens Advice Scotland Development Committee; Davidson Trust; World Wide Con and Spar.
The Nairn Rotary Club raised £13,000 from a Kiltwalk to mark its 75th anniversary and contributed a total of £15,000 to the project.
CAB hopes that the handover of the premises will therefore take place in June and that it will be operational by July 11.