University of Bedfordshire academics and Citizens Advice Luton (CAL) have collaborated to design a smart device app, aimed at supporting individuals in Luton and across the county during the aftermath of Covid19.
Since March, CAL’s resource demand has risen exponentially but social distancing guidance means that the free advice charity has no safe way to deliver face-to-face support.
In response to this, the University and CAL have joined forces to deliver a brand new digital strategy in the form of an app, within the next 18 months. It will incorporate both human assistance and online technologies for those who are not confident with digital platforms and will be scalable across the whole of the UK, not just Bedfordshire.?
Two key education lecturers, Dr Neil Hopkins and Dr Oliver Belas, have been working with CAL to create a new way of blending one-to-one support with digital delivery via a new ‘Supported Citizens’ app. The primary research for this app design will be supported by a grant application from BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grants.
Once launched, a user looking for CAL support will tap the app and be instantly connected to a network of pre-approved Citizen Advisors. The Advisors can guide the user to the best support, helping to fill in forms along the way and identifying any other relevant resources that may be available. The app will also be accessible across multiple languages and will adapt to the needs of those who may require help with numeracy and literacy.
Lecturer Dr Belas, based at Bedfordshire’s School of Education & English Language, explains: "We want to work out how best to help service-users overcome their digital-technology concerns. This will allow us to ensure that service-users' voices inform and influence CAL's digital literacy strategy and provision."
Dr Hopkins, Senior Lecturer from the University’s School of Teacher Education, said: “This partnership draws together third-sector and academic work from a range of disciplines in order to enrich and extend advice services for those who most need them”.
Mick Dillon, CEO of Citizen Advice Luton said: "Our collaboration with the University allows us to bring together two specialist sectors to explore the creation of a new highly practical platform with a number of social benefits. The potential of this asset could transform how people engage with our advice services, which will both empower and inform users seamlessly."?
This research project and local business partnership, facilitated and supported by the University’s Innovation & Enterprise team, will create a UK-leading system for supported digital literacy whilst meeting the Citizens Advice Service national requirement to move services to digital platforms.
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