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Support service bus is just the ticket

A mobile support service in North Warwickshire has welcomed over 300 enquirers on board to discuss money matters since it launched in the Summer.

The Branching Out Bus (BOB) has been on the road since June 2009 visiting rural communities in North Warwickshire and offering financial, housing and employment advice to residents.

The bus is one of ten Department of Children, Schools and Families national pilots set up to address child poverty. Representatives from North Warwickshire Borough Council, Warwickshire County Council, Credit Union and Citizens Advice Bureau submitted a successful bid for the pilot and were awarded a £275 000 Government grant to develop the project over a two year period.

The frontline service is delivered by specialist staff from Citizens Advice Bureau and Credit Union with additional information on hand from Job Centre Plus, North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, the Family Information Service and Doorway. Advice is available on a range of topics from credit crunch concerns, to finding a job or checking benefit claims.

BOB delivers a weekly service to residents from the villages of Polesworth, Dordon, Baddesley, Ansley Common, Hartshill, Chapel End, Old and New Arley. A timetable is available at BOB’s website http://www.askbob.org.uk.
The distinctive bus with its tree motif - designed by local youth forum members - has proved to be a valuable service in the communities it serves. A telephone survey of customers who have used the resource showed a very positive 99 per cent satisfaction rate.

The service will be branching out even further over the next few months as the project team work on raising the bus’s profile and the possibility of introducing new venues to the route.

The service will also be targeting more families and building links with North Warwickshire schools, children’s centres and other support services. Bob Trahern, assistant director of revenue and benefits at North Warwickshire Borough Council said: “Our aim is to develop a strong information sharing network with a range of agencies to ensure we can signpost customers to any further support they need without having every service on the bus at all times.”

Warwickshire County Councillor Izzi Seccombe, portfolio holder for Children, Young People and Families said: “I commend this great initiative which provides much needed help to people in rural areas of North Warwickshire who may not otherwise have access to these services.

“BOB is also a shining example of how the county and borough councils work together with external agencies to achieve positive outcomes for our residents.”