Twenty five Post Office branches across the country were today (11 December 2013) announced as winners of the Community Enterprise Fund competition for their outstanding proposals to support local people and businesses, and to tackle isolation among older people. The winners announced by Minister for Communities Stephen Williams will each receive up to £10,000 to make their idea a reality. Proposals include providing free wi-fi access and IT training, developing community apps and websites to inform people and businesses about local services, and a scheme to protect older and vulnerable people from winter freezes by keeping them in touch with neighbours, local services and charities.
Stephen Williams said:
The millions of people visiting branches to post cards and parcels at the moment remind us of the huge community role the post office plays, but this will not just stop in January, it goes on all year round. Post offices are becoming community hubs, getting local people and businesses involved with each other, learning new skills, and sharing information and today is a big step forward with 25 areas becoming even more active.
Christmas is a time when people can feel particularly isolated and the problem is most acute among the elderly so while all these schemes will benefit the whole community I also want to congratulate those schemes that are in particular aimed at helping the elderly.
Over 100 branches put forward suggestions for the competition. Originally the aim was to fund up to 20 schemes, but the quantity and quality of the proposals means that 25 have been successful. Funding from the Cabinet Office for proposals which address isolation enabled additional schemes to be supported. All nominations were for projects that provided a service, activity or support easily accessible and open to all.
The competition was launched in July asking the public to suggest projects their local post office could start up to benefit the community.
Paula Vennells, Post Office Chief Executive said:
The post office is at the heart of communities across the country and our sub-postmasters understand how they can make a real impact on their customers’ lives. The Community Enterprise Fund builds on this unique role, enabling 25 branches to provide additional services designed around the needs of local people and businesses, such as helping the elderly to access support during cold winters and giving people access to the internet and computer training.
Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd said:
Post offices have a special place in the community. So we welcome this opportunity to support great ideas that show how post offices can bring people together to tackle social problems like isolation.
In many places in England, especially in more rural areas, post offices already play a role in the community which goes way beyond offering the usual post office services such as government transactions and financial services. Over 90% of the population lives within 1 mile of a post office.
Around 18 million customers a week and third of all small businesses use a post office each week. 99.7% of people live within 3 miles of their nearest post office outlet with 93.1% within a mile.
The Post Office already provides 170 different services and products spanning financial services including savings, insurance, loans, mortgages and credit cards. It also offers telephony; foreign currency; travel insurance and mail services.