In an ever increasing digital world the way we now perform everyday tasks from online shopping, applying for jobs or ordering prescriptions are changing and contrary to general perception, it’s not only the older generation who are now faced with the fact that they need to embrace this change and Get Online.

Research by Good Things Foundation shows:

  • 5.3 million individuals in UK have NEVER been online
  • 11.9 million DON’T have essential digital skills to navigate life or work

In 2014, CSW were part of the Employment & Skills group in Sedgemoor, Somerset and begun development of a pilot project to give individuals access to a non-judgmental, non-training, volunteering/ peer support service aimed at supporting them to feel confident, safe and motivated to use “Digital” necessary for their everyday life – this is when Digital Link was established.

Now in 2019 – 5 years on – we continue to offer this service and with the help or our brilliant volunteers we run 6 regular sessions per week. So far this year (since April 2019) we have delivered:

125 sessions with 315 individuals benefiting from the sessions with 84 of those individuals using it for the first time.

We have also been part of a 12-week program based in a specific area of Sedgemoor to mentor residents from that locality to become volunteers and develop the skills and confidence they need to facilitate regular Digital Skills sessions for other residents.

Get Online Week – 14-20 October

We have again been part of and celebrated Get Online Week – a chance to encourage, support and motivate more people to give Digital a go!  All our Digital Link sessions were ready to welcome new individuals to give it a try.

The diversity of the individuals that use these sessions and the reasons they are so important and valued is evident:

Gareth has difficulties with reading and poor literacy.  He first came into a Digital Link session when he received a text from the Job Centre telling him he must log onto his Universal Credit account and complete several tasks. He arrived in a confused and worried state, was unfamiliar with the Universal Credit system and not a computer user. We supported him to access his Universal Account and update his journal as instructed by Job Centre.  Gareth’s overwhelming relief was evident, he told us we had taking away the fear and anxiety the whole process had caused him.  He is now a regular face at our sessions and continues to get support but has also started to grow in his own confidence with Getting Online and use a computer.

Julie first came to a session 8 weeks ago and had never used a computer before.  She was extremely anxious initially and didn’t know how to turn a computer on, get onto the internet, access emails or anything else which she had been told by her Job Coach she needed to do.  Since that first visit, she has regularly attended 2 sessions per week. Her confidence has increased, and she is now confident enough to job search and check emails without too much help.  We have helped her to search and apply for jobs – as a result she has been invited for an interview with a local supermarket.  Julie has also registered for Learn My Way the online training with bite size modules which she can pick which she wants to do.  Julie is determined not to be “left behind” in this digital world again and is eager to learn what other benefits Getting Online can give her.  She will continue to come to at least 1 Digital Link session a week to make sure she keeps increasing her Digital confidence.

We are working in partnership with Sedgemoor District Council Housing Officers who have helped train our volunteers in using Somerset Homefinder and we are working alongside the officers in sessions to support individuals in using the system to find suitable housing. Over the next few months we will be developing another Digital Link session alongside a multi-agency team at a Rough Sleeper drop-in in Bridgwater – we are currently looking for a volunteer to help us with this. Click here to read more about the role.