An East Lancashire organisation helping thousands of women a year plans to step up its support services thanks to a new partnership.

Lancashire Women, which is headquartered in Accrington with a network of centres across Burnley, Blackburn and Blackpool, aims to empower females to transform their lives by bringing them together to find their voice, share experiences, develop their knowledge and skills.

Many of the services provided by the group including its mental health and wellbeing programme, employment and skills support as well as money, debt and benefit advice can only be accessed by signing up using a QR code.

However, until recently users could not access Lancashire Women’s WiFi and were missing out.

The organisation said it had now signed up with Opus Broadband through their ‘Internet for Everyone’ campaign.

Programme manager, Karen Burns said: “We're trying to keep down our carbon footprint, and so don't want to be printing lots of leaflets and so, our services are advertised via a QR code.

"Even if somebody walked through the door, we need them to access the online referral via the QR code.

“However, many of our users don't necessarily have data on their phones and previously, we couldn’t connect them to our Wi-Fi because it was private. Having a connection with Opus means our users can access online referrals. The feedback has been amazing.

“We are now looking at doing some digital training with another organisation that will open up further opportunities to the girls and women who come to us for support.”

(Image: Nq/LT)  The centre says more members will now be able access their services

Karen said: “As a charity, we couldn't afford to put two lots of WiFi in. So, this relationship with Opus is brilliant because it allows us to provide additional service to the women that we're looking after.

“For example, women can now access and apply for benefits or simply log into online banking. They can utilise that internet access through their mobile phones here and we can guide them and show them how to do it.”

Lancashire Women supports up to 6,000 people a year and has seen a rise in more women seeking their support due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Tracey Arden is the systems and infrastructure manager.

She said: “While we’re not a crisis service, we are starting to see a lot more people in crisis and we want to ensure we are providing the right support so that they don't hit that crisis point.

“Which is why we want to educate them and provide those important skills training together with mental health and emotional well-being support.”

Looking ahead, the group said having access to superfast affordable broadband means they can now team up with other partner organisations to deliver multi-partnership services.

Karen added: “We’ve got staff and volunteers from other organisations coming in to support our women, and we can now use Opus’ WiFi to tap into our partners’ services such as e-learning, which is something we were unable to do previously.”

A spokesperson for Opus Broadband said: “We are excited to work with Lancashire Women, a charity that has a strong reputation for helping vulnerable girls and women across the county.

“Our Internet for Everyone campaign was established to help organisations such as this to really take their services to the next level and reach out to even more people who need their help.”