A pioneering, on-screen Citizens Advice service – believed to be the first of its kind – had its official launch in Sutton Bridge on Thursday.
Villagers seeking help from Citizens Advice staff in Spalding can use the Skype-style system installed at The Curlew Centre to have face-to-face meetings with advisers 18 miles away.
Lisa Barwell, chief officer with South Lincolnshire Citizens Advice, said there’s also a secure document scan system so residents can pass their paperwork in complete confidence to the trained advisers.
She said the screen is much bigger than those traditionally used on Skype.
“As far as I am aware, it’s the first system of its type anywhere,” said Mrs Barwell.
The system was installed at a cost of around £3,000, with £2,000 coming from the Sutton Bridge Power Station Fund.
Mrs Barwell said she was very grateful to the power station fund for allocating the money and also to The Curlew Centre for providing a base for the service.
Citizens Advice has worked with the centre in Bridge Road to train volunteers to work as information assistants and receptionists for the new service.
The link also provides a telephone line to Citizens Advice.
Mrs Barwell says that will run similar to a triage system and if a caller needs further advice after speaking to an adviser over the phone, they can then speak to a specialist via the screen.
Several years ago, Sutton Bridge had weekly Citizens Advice sessions but that was then reduced to once a month.
The new system will operate five days a week, two hours a day – giving the village its best ever service.
Mrs Barwell said following on from the pilot at Sutton Bridge, Citizens Advice might approach some of the bigger firms in the area to see if they would host a similar system.
She said that would save on lost working hours with employees taking time off to seek advice.
South Lincolnshire Citizens Advice trustee Anthony Grunwell hosted the official launch and guests were able to see the system in action.
Mrs Barwell said: “We just want to thank everybody who came.”