Torfaen County Borough Council

Digital Communities

Torfaen County Borough Council

Torfaen County Borough Council is responsible for providing a range of public services to create an improved and sustainable future for the people of Torfaen. This includes education, social care, highways and transport, economic development, housing and planning, environmental protection, waste management, cultural and leisure services.

Digital Communities Wales was approached by the ‎Communications Manager who is responsible for digital transformation in the county and the Communications Officer (Digital) from Torfaen County Borough Council to run a workshop primarily for newly elected council members. A pilot was developed in partnership with staff from Torfaen CBC with the aim of highlighting the challenges faced by people who are unable to use technology and the use of social media as an engagement tool.

The “Introduction to Digital Engagement” workshop ran in June and was attended by 14 Local Councillors. The session covered:
• Raising awareness of digital exclusion nationally and locally, including barriers, benefits and current provision in Torfaen
• Correlation between digital and financial exclusion
• Useful tools and apps to help people learn digital skills
• Social media as an engagement tool
• Staying safe online
• How to use digital to engage people and encourage them to go online
• Where to signpost for support

The first part of the workshop focused on raising awareness of digital exclusion both nationally and locally. Councillors were given an overview of the current situation in Wales and also facts and figures specific to Torfaen. The information enabled Councillors to gain an understanding of digital exclusion and the impact this has on the people they represent. The timing of the workshop was planned to align with the rollout of Universal Credit Full Service taking place in Torfaen in July 2017, when the demand for digital support will potentially increase with all claims needing to be made online.

The second part of the workshop focused on Social Media as an Engagement Tool. The session covered the basics and the pros and cons to help the Councillors to realise the full potential of using social media and the benefits of them supporting and encouraging their constituents to use it.

Local Councillors have regular contact with the general public through council meetings, telephone calls or surgeries. Surgeries provide an opportunity for any ward resident to go and talk their Councillor face to face and these take place on a regular basis. Councillors are well placed to identify those who need help to use technology. The knowledge and skills learnt at the DCW workshop will enable them to directly help people at grass roots level or to signpost them to appropriate local support. By using social media the Councillors will be able to encourage and influence the citizens of Torfaen to use technology to fully engage and participate in their local communities.

Following the training, 9 of the 14 Councillors completed an evaluation carried out by Torfaen CBC. In summary, all 9 of the respondents rated the subject matter as relevant; 8 out of 9 of the respondents rated the importance of digital inclusion in Torfaen as highly important; 7 out of 9 of the respondents rated the quality of content in the training as very good and 2 as good; all 9 of the respondents would recommend this training to a colleague.

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