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. Having not been brought up with smartphones, tablets and computers or had access to them, it can be a daunting prospect. There is also a large proportion of the UK where individuals do not have IT equipment or internet access therefore it is vital that these individuals have access to digital technology.

Since 2014 CSW have been developing a non-judgmental, non-training, volunteering/ peer support project aimed at supporting those individuals and others to feel confident, safe and motivated to use ICT necessary for their everyday life. Not only have our learners developed new skills and confidence but friendships have been made and nurtured, from a social inclusion point of view these sessions deliver social outcomes as well as skills.

The success stories speak for themselves, many individuals IT skills have improved dramatically.

Susan is in her late 50’s and started attending Digital Link in 2016, she had very little IT skills and confidence but with the support of our volunteers she learnt how to manage emails and search for jobs online. This was a success as Susan secured a part time job. She still attends Digital Link on a weekly basis at Westfield Church Skills Cafe mainly because she has developed friendships in the group and enjoys the social aspect and she also likes to check her emails and keep up to date with her computer skills. Susan enjoys a cup of tea and a piece of cake with a fellow digital link user after every session.

In some cases individuals IT skills have improved so much that they now support others in the sessions .

Craig started attending Digital Link in 2016 after he was made redundant from a manufacturing job that he had since leaving school. He was signposted through the Job Centre to manage his Universal Credit account. Craig had little IT skills when he first joined Digital Link as he had never had to use it in his job. With the help of our volunteers his IT skills and confidence have gone from strength to strength and he now rates his skills a 9/10. Craig has been helping others in the group during the session and is now thinking about officially registering to become a volunteer and help support a regular session.

We are now working in partnership with Sedgemoor District Council Housing Officers who have helped train our volunteers in using Homefinder and we are working alongside the officers in sessions to support the individuals in using the system to find suitable housing. Over the next few months we will be starting in developing more sessions alongside the Housing Officers and piloting a new Digital Link session alongside Sedgemoor District Housing team and other support organisations at a Rough Sleeper drop-in in Bridgwater. Recruitment for new volunteers for these sessions is underway and this week we have welcomed to our team Callum who is studying Applied Computing at Weston College. Callum will be fitting in volunteering alongside his studies which will gain him valuable work experience as well as benefiting those who he is supporting.