Blaenau Gwent Council helps people get online to combat social isolation

Digital Communities

Blaenau Gwent Council helps people get online to combat social isolation

The Digital Inclusion Officer at Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council approached DCW to borrow tablet devices which she could take out group sessions across the area. She found that the tablets were really effective for encouraging people who were wary of using a fixed PC to get digital.

Blaenau Gwent has the highest levels of digital inclusion in Wales. Many people lack the basic digital skills to get online, access information and find work. Social isolation is also a problem for many, particularly older residents.

Combatting these issues is a priority for the Local Authority, particularly as it is becoming more digital itself. Paperwork is being replaced by digital application forms and access to public services is primarily online.

The Digital Inclusion Officer at Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council applied to DCW for a loan of four tablet devices. These were provided for a period of three months.

The Officer used the equipment to work with a reading group and a sheltered housing scheme.

The Digital Inclusion Officer said, “The equipment we borrowed from DCW had a massive impact on people looking to improve their digital skills in Blaenau Gwent. We increased our ability to hold group sessions within the Borough and not be restricted by limited equipment.

“People with limited digital skills on a PC were able to try an alternative way to ‘get digital’ and decide which technology they preferred.

“The most positive impact was combatting social isolation within the community. Those who’ve lost partners or parents and are living alone were given the opportunity to learn new skills in a friendly atmosphere. Many found using a touch screen much easier than a keyboard, and many elderly people were able to use apps for the first time. The ease of use improved people’s confidence levels and helped them feel less isolated.

“The intervention made it easier for people to access public services online. Talking through processes with people was much more relaxed using the tablet devices. Holding a tablet was less formal than being sat behind a screen with a keyboard and a mouse, and we could help people to complete online forms anywhere (Wi-Fi permitting), so it was a less daunting task for them.”

An 86 year old member of the Computer Confidence Club at Tredegar Library said, “I have a laptop and I just live by myself ever since my wife passed away. I thought having a laptop would keep me busy, and I was right. I could spend hours reading about history and the internet lets me do that very easily. The time just flies! I think I will buy a tablet since trying one, because I want to use Ebay and think having a tablet with a camera will make easier to sell things.”

Another member said, “I’d never used one before (a computer) but I thought I’d give it a go. I was nervous but my confidence got better, and I like looking at sport on there. I tried an iPad which I found weird at first but like using it with help.”

A member of the community with complex learning needs has been having fortnightly one-to-one digital support sessions. Using the tablet brought an exciting new element into the sessions, with the client enjoying the game apps and watching videos. Introducing the new tool was a big hit.

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