A Ground-breaking scheme to give people in rural areas a "face-to-face" link with public services miles away from their homes is being piloted in Upper Wensleydale. Backed with financial support from North Yorkshire County Council, the scheme exploits the latest technological advances to give residents in Hawes and surrounding communities an audio, video, and data link to a variety of destinations, including a number of villages in Upper Swaledale. People can apply for a bus pass, request housing repairs, complete housing and council tax benefit forms ... and even have a consultation with a GP.
Based at the Library and Community Office in Hawes, the "Telly Talk" link will enable customers to contact a wide range of public services. These include bus passes and housing repairs from Richmondshire District Council, advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau, timetable requests for the community transport provided by Little Red Bus and even - for residents of Upper Swaledale - consultations (by appointment) with the doctors' surgery in Reeth.
The link uses specially designed computers and cameras that allow the customer to speak face to face to a representative of the organisation concerned and can even pass copies of forms and take signatures. The scheme is free to use and has been made possible by funding from North Yorkshire County Council. It is run by the Upper Wensleydale Community Partnership (UWCP).
County Councillor Heather Garnett, Executive Member responsible for access to services at North Yorkshire County Council said: "This is an innovative solution to the problems faced by people in rural areas in accessing services. It will be interesting to see the results of this pilot scheme".
County Councillor John Blackie, the member for the Upper Dales and Chairman of the UWCP said: "Remoteness is the main barrier in deeply rural areas like the Upper Dales, coupled with the cost of petrol and the time needed to access essential services in the far distant towns.
"Telly Talk offers confidential two-way face to face contact, exchange of important documents, consultation and advice, with key organisations without having to make these long trips up and down the Dale. We will try very hard to make this pilot a rip-roaring success".