Supporting parents with digital skills!

Supporting parents with digital skills!

Supporting parents with digital skills!

In partnership with Community Tech Aid, we delivered 2 rounds of digital skills sessions at Henry Fawcett Children’s Centre in earlier this year.

We have worked closely with both organisations to help people in our community overcome digital exclusion, but we recognised that more was need to support families.

A key focus of the children’s centres is supporting families to have fair and equal access to services and opportunities, helping to break cycles of deprivation and to secure positive longer term outcomes. Lack of access to digital devices impacts all aspects of family life; managing finances, employment, education, healthcare and more and simple day-to-day tasks are instantly more challenging without access to a device and regular, reliable connectivity to the internet. These families are facing a great number of obstacles related to these challenges, which places them at a huge disadvantage. When holding parent forums, parents were asking for digital skills training and how to keep children safe online.

Parents recognise that with increased confidence, skills and access to digital devices, their ability to keep their children safe and access and benefit from opportunities will be increased tenfold for them, and therefore for their children.

Each session was designed to support participants with the tools to develop digital skills and the confidence to continue independently afterward. Every participant was given a refurbished laptop for them to use during the sessions and to take away once they had completed the short course. These laptops were prepared by our volunteers, who replaced batteries, fixed screens and ensured that they were ready to use straight away!

By providing refurbished laptops, we managed to reuse 94 kg of potential e-waste, preventing it from ending up in landfill.

Working with existing equipment is vital to our work at Community TechAid. Producing new tech mines precious resources and can have a devastating impact on the lands and communities they come from. This project avoided 2336 kg CO2 equivalents by working with second-hand equipment.

Parents recognise that with increased confidence, skills and access to digital devices, their ability to keep their children safe and access and benefit from opportunities will be increased tenfold for them, and therefore for their children.

Participants were encouraged to sign up to either ‘Online Safety’ or ‘Microsoft Skills’, with the first session focusing on getting started with the laptop, and becoming familiar with its settings. Each participant took part in 2 sessions, however there were several who attended both.

As a pilot we wanted to understand what subjects were most useful and so surveyed parents beforehand. It’s really important to us that the workshops were driven by need and not assumption.

Each session was designed to support participants with the tools to develop digital skills and the confidence to continue independently afterward. Every participant was given a refurbished laptop for them to use during the sessions and to take away once they had completed the short course. These laptops were prepared by our volunteers, who replaced batteries, fixed screens and ensured that they were ready to use straight away!

“Being able to access forms in larger prints and see all the details on a site without missing out is so much easier! I can access online banking easily and more securely.” Anonymous participant

All of the participants have young families, and so online safety can be an overwhelming concern, particularly for new users:

“I’ve been able to create accounts for my kids to use and to monitor their use.”– Anonymous participant

All those who took part are now able to access tools and services they couldn’t before. When asked how the device had changed their day to day life, all commented on how they would use it to support their children with tasks like homework. Over half spoke about how they would use it to create and write word documents for job applications and homework. Software like LibreOffice, which is free, does not require an internet connection, and so documents can be written and edited anywhere.

“I can now create and edit documents at home which will help with work and day to day life. It also means I will use my phone less to carry out certain activities helping to preserve battery and potentially reduce screen-time.”– Karen

Online safety is another concern for many young parents, particularly as many feel that their children are more advanced online users. The ‘Online Safety’ sessions focused on securing accounts and understanding why passwords are important. For many, it helped them to understand their role in keeping their children safe when using the laptop and developing the confidence to have conversations with other family members about online safety.

“I’m much more aware of my role with security of the device. Will be changing my passwords!”

Participants feel more knowledgeable about using their laptop and going online as a result of the training. All agreed that their life is easier as a result of having their own laptop with and report feeling more socially included as a result of their engagement with the project. We know collaboration is key to empowering individuals online and that with the tools and opportunities we can help to overcome barriers that many in our community face.

“Thank you for providing such a phenomenal service to the community. We appreciate your hard work and support. You are all FANTASTIC!!!”

With thanks to our funders and partners Lambeth Housing, Lambeth Council, Community Tech Aid and Better Start North Lambeth Children’s Centre.

An informal & friendly place to get support.

An informal & friendly place to get support.

An informal & friendly place to get support

Our Community Tech Support drop-ins are built on three principles:

  • Support is best placed where residents are already receiving other help or participating in activities.
  • Small group and peer support, not only motivate, but can provide the best environment to learn new things or to get organized without it being too overwhelming.
  • Traditional places of learning and refurbished libraries can be intimidating

We try to address these as best we can via our free to access sessions. Between September and December 2021 we supported a total of 83 residents across 3 regular venues in Crystal Palace, Thornton Heath and Loughborough Junction where we helped with a variety of different challenges including:

  • Checking and refurbishing a ‘dormant’ laptop
  • Setting up a new iPad and iPhone, transferring data via cloud storage.
  • Setting up email addresses or unlocking online accounts
  • Storage: moving and deleting files on phones / tablets and laptops
  • Learning how to use a device and exploring settings and accessibility.
  • Learning how to use word, copying and pasting and formatting.
  • Using publisher to create a flyer for a new business start up
  • Building confidence around sending and replying to emails
  • Creating an account and making a first purchase online

Most importantly, however, we provided a quiet and friendly space to practice and have a little time to learn something new.

Our network of referring partners really help this initiative to work. With regular sign-posting by Age UK both in Croydon ad Lambeth, the Living Well Partnership, Croydon BME Forum, Disability Advice Services Lambeth, Croydon Mencap, Harbour Recovery Service and Bromley Well, to name a few, we have a regular stream of newcomers.

Many stop for a cup of tea and continue to come back. By giving people the time and space to understand their challenges and a gentle push we believe that Community Tech Support is a crucial local service to help people be more digitally included.

Our strategy for 2022 to to scale up this service and prvide a consistent provision accross a wider geographical area in South London.

If you’d like to discuss how we can bring this to you then please get in touch,

Case Studies

Henry came to us via a referral from Quay Health Solutions, and he already had existing ties to Platform Café. He came with his iPad and iPhone to get them synced up and to learn some new things.

He attended every week without fail, growing in confidence and showing increasing curiosity about his devices.

He’s excellent at troubleshooting but needed a touch of encouragement and reassurance. Henry is able to problem solve using his devices by looking up questions on google and is a lot more familiar with his settings and adapting his devices to suit his usage.  

Bernard started coming along to the sessions as a companion to another resident. The first few sessions he would come with her but by the end of the year he was coming every week on his own, often showing up first and getting himself set up without any assistance. He started the off coming along with a donated laptop to help with looking for work but lacked some confidence and direction. 

Over time he’s gained focus and has started taking a real interest in the activities to help him build the foundational skills to help him confidently use his laptop. 

This has helped him come out of his shell, engaging more with the activities and other people in the sessions, smiling and making jokes.  

Community Tech Support: Providing a critical service as a response to the pandemic.

Community Tech Support: Providing a critical service as a response to the pandemic.

Community Tech Support: Providing a critical service as a response to the pandemic.

ClearCommunityWeb CIC helps develop digital skills in older people, vulnerable or isolated adults & carers primarily across Lambeth, Southwark & Croydon.

We run classes and workshops designed to help people feel more comfortable and confident with technology as well as teaching them to be safer online. We take a person-centred approach to help them to be more independent, to make better choices and access support networks and services.

We have always observed that a person’s mental health and current situation can have a direct and negative impact on the ability to learn, to adopt or use something new and to either critically think or troubleshoot. Some of the essential skills to using the internet and technology in general.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we expanded our tech support service to provide virtual (Zoom), telephone and doorstep/ home support – with full PPE provision where restrictions allowed, and services users were comfortable.

Very quickly we found we were able to reach a wide range of new people – those housebound before the pandemic and isolated adults, often with mental health, who prior to the pandemic may not have come to one of our services in a public space.

We have assisted people to download and install software such as zoom to access support networks, council & NHS services, setting up accounts (such as email and online services) troubleshoot issues, running virus checks and helping people who have been scammed.

We have, however also provided support for people to access online funerals, bereavement services as well as brokering conversations with utility providers and council support.

“During lockdown I lost both my mother and daughter to the virus and was unable to leave my house. 

With your assistance I was able to attend bereavement counselling with AgeUK Croydon by video which was helpful as I find it difficult expressing myself without eye contact.”

Sandra, Norbury

During this time, people that perhaps had been digitally excluded, not engaged or confident were trying to get online or use equipment with little support.

This, combined with the various pressures of being on-line during the pandemic, then, in cases, lead to an increase in anxiety or at best was a missed opportunity to building confidence.

Breakdown of cases

In the period between March 2020 and March 2021 we received 285 support cases; primarily referrals from local charities, housing, NHS/ CCG partners, support & recovery services, libraries and link workers/ social prescribers.

We also saw a rise in referrals from grassroots organizations such as Tenants & Residents Associations, food banks and community kitchens.

We also advertised the service with leaflets through doors, via food parcels and on community noticeboards. We also engaged with the Mutual Aid groups and community activators in our immediate area.

The barriers & challenges

We have focussed on understanding both the barriers to the adoption of technology and to learning, the most common seen below.

We noted that people experienced multiple barriers and this mix was unique to the person, bit underlying this we have noted mental health, anxiety, trauma all having a significant impact on the ability to learn and adopt something new, accentuated during an external crisis such as pandemic.

Work we would like to explore and test further.

“Thank you for not making me feel clueless. I have just been starring at my computer for weeks getting more stressed. Really appreciate what you did. Small steps

Ruth, Lambeth

“My netbook is heaps better than it was, only occasionally giving me a stop code and turning off – but I can live with that. The fact is I have more confidence in it working when I switch it on in the morning.”
Julie, Southwark

“Tech” Re-distribution, Donations and Connectivity

During this period, we also worked with many organizations including Good Things Foundation, HubBub, Community Tech Aid and Millennium Community Solutions to redistributed donated or upcycled equipment to vulnerable residents.

During this period, we have redistributed 45 Smart phones, 32 Tablets, 12 Laptops, 18 desktops which on average lead to 3.5hr of additional support to use the device in a basic way. Ie turn it on and complete one or two common and useful tasks but not independent.

This was time/ resource that wasn’t factored into these projects from the outset when trying to resolve digital exclusion by a device alone.

The price of connectivity, ability to get a contract and the quality of service were all factors that were underestimated at the beginning of this period, rendering many donated devices redundant.

What we have learned

  • It is as much a human challenge as it is technological as those who have not adopted technology and are the most digitally excluded require significant support.
  • The same problem presented can take 15 mins or 5 hours over 3 weeks to resolve depending on the person and circumstances. The wrap around service can be in excess of an hour.
  • Confidence, support, working equipment & connectivity need to all be in place
  • Building confidence in someone can be fragile and a delicate process in which you cant ‘watch the clock’.
  • Learning to ask the right questions is important as having an email is not the same as being able to use email.
  • Information from referrers isn’t always helpful, even with best will in the world. People may try to explain what they think the problem is – but we focus on what they are trying to do – which are different things.

We do believe it is a service to be developed and not ‘Just help’ or a temporary response to the COVID situation.

Further information
Caspar Kennerdale: caspar@clearcommunityweb.co.uk

Elsie’s Story

Elsie’s Story

Elsie has been a ClearCommunityWeb beneficiary for a while, and is a regular of our Digital Awareness for Older People classes.

Elsie was interested in purchasing a tablet but had never used one before. As part of the Digital Horizons programme, she was loaned a tablet, courtesy of the Lambeth Digital Inclusion Fund, to try out for herself and joined the 8-week introductory course.

Elsie commented, ‘The Digital Horizon programme is an excellent programme to attend, if you are nervous about anything digital, you will be assisted with tender loving care from a team of experts. So get involved! It is the place to be guy’s!’

Else was initially given door-step support to help her get started, connect to the internet and find her way around the home screen. Although she felt confident using her smartphone, it took some time to familiarise herself with a new device.

Through the weekly classes, Elsie learnt the basics of how to use the tablet. She found the classes on changing settings, downloading applications, watching videos, taking photos and getting directions particularly useful.

Elsie used the weekly activities provided to help her practice using the tablet in her own time. Inspiring her to look for videos about International Women’s Day and documentaries by David Attenborough on YouTube.

Going forward, the course has helped Elsie build the confidence to explore, navigate and problem-solve when using a tablet. She has decided to purchase her own and will seek advice from ClearCommunityWeb to find herself a suitable choice.

 


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