Digital Inclusion Network 8 February 2024

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Thank you to all for attending our digital inclusion network meeting on 8 February 2024.

It was lovely catching up with everyone and seeing some new faces too. It was a lively session with introductions and news from all.

Our Chair, Sally Page, Deputy CEO of CCVS, began the session by mentioning Cambridge Community Foundation learning skills funding that may be of interest: https://www.cambscf.org.uk/funds/learning-skills/

Beverley Young, Chief Partnerships Officer at Age UK Cambridgeshire and Peterborough then wanted to highlight Age UK’s campaign to end digital discrimination, particularly in public services.

Petition: Age UK’s Petition to End Digital Discrimination in Public Services

They are calling on the government to offer offline alternatives and to allocate more funding to help people learn digital skills. The petition is asking for a new national digital inclusion strategy, the last one was 10 years ago. The petition also asks the banks to roll out shared banking hubs and demand face-to-face banking services.

Beverley explained that a lot of older people have been sharing their stories and stating they don’t have the digital skills, are worried about online scams and things going wrong.

Linked to this issue,  Sue Keogh, Founder of Sookio shared a story of an older man at her doctor’s surgery who was told to go away and download an app just to order a repeat prescription. Sue shared it on LinkedIn and got 35,000 impressions with a lot of people stating that while digital is good we shouldn’t take away the human factor.

Cambridge based company, Sookio are very well connected and do great work around work experience and upskilling. Sue wanted to find out what else was going on for digital inclusion in Cambridgeshire and that Sookio are happy to help – using their skills or network to amplify things.

Deborah Katznelson, a Trustee at Cambridgeshire Older People’s Enterprise (COPE) further highlighted issues with older people becoming digitally excluded.

Deborah thinks that COPE should be involved in the Partnership as only 60% of COPE’s members use computers, others depend on post and the telephone. COPE also campaign to keep human interaction.

COPE run a programme called, Talking Together to bring people together who don’t use computers to talk on a conference-type call. Those who do use computers, COPE organises Zoom calls.

There is a worry that older generations will be pushed out of society.

Deborah says that many members are stuck at home and if they need any repairs on their devices – how do we get people to them? And if people are entering their home, how do we ensure them that they are safe and reliable?

Sue Gowling, Founder of Sustainable Tech4Good, explained that they started in lockdown getting devices out to schools, then found out a wider demographic of need.

They collect redundant devices after upgrades, securely erase and refurbish them and pass them to those in need. Whatever county they take tech from, it stays in that county. Sue explains the 3 areas of the business that are sustainable solutions for digital inclusion.

We then moved on to hear from Company Director, Rose Charlton-Peel about all the fantastic outreach work Cambridge Online had achieved in the last few months.

Rose states that they have youth projects running in Witchford, Soham and Cambourne that finish in March. There was an issue with volunteers in Cambourne as many cancelled due to sickness, so it has been difficult.

The older people’s drop-in sessions, teaching life skills, have been very successful with a huge turnout. The City Council paid for 5 locations around Cambridge and Rose is happy to report that it is funded for next year too. Cambridge Online have private funding to open another three.

The charity also has funding for a project working with the homeless community, teaching life skills, which starts in March. They have been working with Places for People and Clarion Housing – working towards permanent housing and employment.

Cambridge Online are continuing with the Refugee and Job Skills Club, in the Hester Adrian Centre, that are well attended.

They hope to finish this year by helping 4,200 people!

Beth Pettit, Digital & Community Engagement Co-ordinator , reports that How Are You sit and help people with their online resources and don’t just signpost. They’ve also allocated funding for paper copies too for people who find online forms difficult.

Beth mentions the Cambridgeshire County Council programme, Care Together, to keep people independent at home. Beth feels it may be good if IT technicians are part of that project to help older people.

Karen Berkley, Commissioner at Cambridgeshire County Council states that they are looking at that at Care Together and she will pass on details.

Tom Heffer, Marketing and Partnerships Lead, at Cambridgeshire Skills shares details of the new A.I. online course, focused on ChatGPT. It is free for anyone who is a resident of Cambridgeshire and over 19 years old.

It is always worth looking at their website to see what digital courses are on offer.

Great news from Rosie Veitch, Library Development Officer at Cambridgeshire Libraries too!

Rosie said that the data bank offer in libraries has been extended in Arbury, Barnwell Road, Bar Hill, Cambridge Central, Cambourne, Ely, March, Wisbech, Huntingdon, St Neots and St Ives. They are data SIMs from O2, Three and Vodaphone, and available to anyone over 18 from a low-income household and struggling to pay for data. They can support someone for up to 12 months. The offer has been extended until 2025.

The libraries also have a small number of devices they can lend out: https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/libraries-leisure-culture/libraries/borrow/lendit-collection

Cambridge Cyrenians provide accommodation, support and specialist services for homeless men and women in Cambridge. Beth Vickers, who works in Fundraising and Community Engagement said the desktop computers that have been donated in the past to the residents are now not working properly. Beth was eager to find solutions to help their service users become more digitally included. She would like to become a conduit between the groups providing digital services and the project workers.

Suzanne Goff, Preventative Health Programme Officer at Cambridge City Council

Suzanne states there are huge connections between digital and health. She wanted to mention two events.

Older People’s Fair: 17th April at Cambridge United’s Cledara Abbey Stadium.

You can attend if there is anything you’d like to engage with older people. Please contact Simon Wall.

Power-Up! A Wellbeing Festival for Children, Teens, Parents, and Families Tickets, Wed 27 Mar 2024 at 16:15 | Eventbrite

Suzanne is doing a lot of work around young people and their mental health. The festival are looking for digital partners who can contribute with things like: online safety, digital art, helping parents get online, programming, careers in IT, A.I, and so on.

In relation to IT support in people’s homes, Suzanne also points out:

Trading standards at the County Council have a list of approved traders: Find a Trading Standards approved trader – Cambridgeshire County Council

Cambridge Home Improvement Agency – offer disabled facilities grants/ can do private works – Cambridgeshire Home Improvement Agency (cambshia.org)

Simon Wincott, Partner, at Org has a project with the Royal Society of Arts.

Simon would like to know; what organisations, like the banks and government, can do to help those that aren’t computer literate, feel comfortable and safe online liaising with these organisations.

What can we get those organisations to do?

Jo Jordan is Quality and Compliance Lead Universal Credit at Citizens Advice Cambridge & District

Jo states that they are looking at a project to improve digital inclusion, it’s very early stages, and she welcomes ideas.

Finally, we hear from Will Plant – Digital Inclusion Lead at Cambridgeshire County Council. Connecting Cambridgeshire, is developing a strategy for digital inclusion for the area, and work with existing organisations to help deliver a holistic package of digital inclusion and support. Looking to see where there are gaps in provision and fill those. Part of this is connecting with organisations in the area.

Sally Page then states that she and Will be working together moving forward with the Cambridgeshire Digital Partnership to gain reach and resources. There will be an update at the next network meeting.

Sally welcomes thoughts about what members would like to get from the network in the future.

The online chat was very busy throughout the session and lots of connections were made, with contact details being passed around so that meetings could be actioned for help and advice.

This is why we run the network meetings so everyone can be aware of what is happening throughout Cambridgeshire, and we can build these sort of relationships and support.

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