Improved access to digital technology helps to improve people’s health and wellbeing

Digital Communities

Improved access to digital technology helps to improve people’s health and wellbeing

Digital Communities Wales is working with an increasing number of organisations in the health and social care sectors, as the links between digital inclusion and work in these areas becomes ever more relevant.

This can include people using technology to improve their health in hospitals or care homes, in some cases they could be supported by digital volunteers; organisations improving access to health information online; and people using digital technology at home, to improve their own health and wellbeing.

In this case study, we’ll look at a few examples of organisations that Digital Communities Wales has worked with, where individuals have been supported to do more online including accessing health information.

Mental Health Matters Wales (MHMW) works with people in Bridgend who live with mental ill health. MHMW got in touch with Digital Communities Wales (DCW) as it identified a need to support its clients to improve their digital skills and access to equipment. DCW provided MHMW with a laptop, iPad, wireless keyboard and Bluetooth speakers. Ceri Bosley, Community Services Worker, Mental Health Matters Wales said the kit helped their clients to access NHS information online, deal with referrals to other agencies, as well as doing online shopping, general web searches and registering for courses. Ceri added ‘We reach 500 service users and I’d say about 80% wouldn’t usually have access to digital technology, if it wasn’t for the kit we got from Digital Communities Wales. When they come in to use it, some of the service users are visibly excited.’

Ponthafren Association is another charity, based in North Powys, which manages centres to support people experiencing mental ill health, loneliness and isolation. DCW loaned a number of tablet devices, FitBits and a laptop to the Association to enable it to provide digital support to its service users. Julia Gorman, Resource Centre Facilitator at Ponthafren Association said: “We recognised we needed to have access to digital kit, as our members require digital equipment for many things such as job searches and updating CVs. Many of our members don’t have access to wi-fi as they cannot afford to pay broadband fees. Since having the DCW kit, I have been able to do community talks regarding the nutrition and exercise and show the audience how the Fitbits work. The tablets we were loaned by DCW enabled our members to keep connected with their social and family circles. This had a huge positive impact on our members. We run a health and wellbeing group which encourages members to get fitter and eat more healthily. In our groups it’s great to show members different apps that help promote these things.”

Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association (MTHA) was loaned a number of laptops by Digital Communities Wales to help it increase the digital skills of its most vulnerable tenants. One of these was Mrs Jones, a 59 year old lady who lives on her own. Mrs Jones has depression and anxiety and apart from leaving the house for medical appointments, is housebound for much of the time. At the start of the pilot, Mrs Jones was reluctant to use the laptop, but the MTHA team continued to try and convince Mrs Jones to use the laptop whenever its staff made home visits. This persistence paid off, and eventually Mrs Jones started to slowly use the laptop. Having the laptop available has clearly benefitted and improved Mrs Jones’ life, so much so that every member of staff that has come into contact with her has noticed a difference. MTHA has managed to arrange for a local business to donate an old computer to Mrs Jones so that she can continue to use the internet at home and learn how to do more online.

Our final example for this case study is Scope Cwmbran, an organisation that supports individuals with physical and learning disabilities. Disabled people are far less likely to be online and reaping the benefits of the internet and digital technology, compared to other people. DCW loaned Scope Cwmbran a number of tablets and laptops, so its clients could improve their digital skills and to explore how digital technology could improve their experience when attending the organisation’s day centre. One client, Tommy, used the equipment to update his CV and secure a volunteering position with another local organisation – something that had never been achieve by a Scope Cwmbran client before. Other members used the tablets and apps that helped with sensory stimulation. One client was known to lose interest in other activities but engaged with the tablets for longer.

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