Bernice Mitchell of Stratford Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) says she is deeply concerned about the negative impacts of government services withdrawing from communities and the drive for people to access government services online.
She says CAB is asking for a commitment from local candidates to ensure that public services remain accessible to everyone.
"People of all ages are coming to CAB stressed and frustrated about their experiences of trying to access government services. It's getting harder to access human support from government agencies, but people's need for face-to-face services is as real as ever."
Earlier this year a report was released to spotlight the impacts of government digital services on inclusion and wellbeing in society," says Bernice.
"While online services are great for some people, the drive towards online-only is leaving some of the most vulnerable members of the community behind."
Many of these individuals seek the support of the CAB because they need access to face-to-face services, paper-based resources, and empathetic human connection.
In the report, titled Face to Face with Digital Exclusion, it is made clear that the public sector is relying heavily on the goodwill of the Citizens Advice Bureau and its volunteers, to fill the gap from government's withdrawal from face-to-face and paper-based service delivery.
This has a very real impact on local CABs who are carrying the burden of this cost-shifting by government agencies, says Bernice.
The CAB is asking all candidates in the upcoming election to support the recommendations of its digital exclusion report and in particular to pledge their support to the following.
1. Leave no one behind: Ensure that steps are taken to address digital exclusion and that no one is left behind or left out because they can't or don't wish to engage online.
2. Public services accessible to all: Implement accessibility and inclusion standards for the delivery of public services that include offline channels as part of the proactive design of government service delivery.
3. CAB compensated for cost-shifting: Ensure that the Citizens Advice Bureau is properly funded to meet the demands and cost-shifting that has resulted from government services going online.
The CAB has issued a pledge statement for candidates to sign up to.
Bernice says CAB are also asking for the public to get behind the cause by signing a petition.
Paper copies of the petition are available at the local CAB and Stratford Library. Stratford CAB is located under the Clock Tower on Broadway and open Tuesdays to Fridays 10am to 1pm.