Flintshire Council says progress being made resolving staff shortages at Connects Centres
Flintshire Council is making progress in resolving the staff shortages at its Connects Centres.
The authority’s cabinet met to discuss an update on the centres which it runs in Buckley, Connah’s Quay, Flint, Mold and Holywell.
The centres help the public and vulnerable individuals who find it difficult to access services online or by phone, supporting them with issues ranging from council tax and Universal Credit to birth declarations and blue badges.
Due to the pandemic, budget cuts, and lack of staffing, opening times at the Buckley and Mold centres had to be reduced – leading councillors to become concerned earlier this year that some residents were being turned away or waiting days for help.
In February Buckley councillors also raised their unhappiness that their town’s Connects Centre was open one day a week less than the one in Mold.
At this month’s Flintshire Council cabinet meeting, cabinet member for governance and corporate services, Broughton North East Cllr Billy Mullin (Lab) acknowledged there had been problems with recruitment but reported that there had been some “success” recently.
The council’s chief governance officer Gareth Owens added that at one point 60 per cent of roles in the service were vacant but staffing levels had increased.
He said: “This service has at times struggled to maintain services to our residents when they were carrying vacancies in excess of 60 per cent of the size of the team.
“Members will appreciate that in those circumstances it really is impossible to deliver the levels of service which we would aspire.”
Mr Owens added that the centres are vital to those at risk of digital exclusion – people lacking skills, equipment or internet access who can go visit them for help.
“They work with the Good Things Foundation as a databank”, he said.
“In a way that foodbanks give out food to people who lack food, the databank gives out sims to people that lack connectivity.
“People who meet the criteria, on benefits or low income, can go into a Connects Centre and literally be given some access to the internet, either on their own device or others to access public services, make purchases or access deals which are typically better online.”
When budget cuts were made previously, opening hours were reduced at the Buckley and Mold centres, which are currently open two and three days a week respectively.
Money has now been found in order to create a full-time post enabling the Buckley centre to open three days a week so that it “has parity” with Mold, and this increase is expected to happen next month or in August.
Cabinet member for social services and wellbeing, Sealand and Queensferry Cllr Christine Jones (Lab) praised the opportunities given to adults to gain skills through the centres.
She said: “Without our Connects centres a lot of our residents would struggle as they do need the advice and support from the teams that work there. Connects centres are invaluable, I’m glad we’re getting the staff back there again.”
Holywell West Cllr Paul Johnson (Lab) also praised the support the people of Holywell receive through their centre, adding there is always a queue when he visits, emphasising the need for the service.
The council’s cabinet backed the move to increase the opening days of the Buckley Connects Centre.
By Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter (more here). Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com