Skills for life

Funding level: £10,001 to £25,000

Description

More than 10% of the UK’s population still has no access to the internet.

Here in Reading we have plenty of IT specialists, with the European headquarters of several large hi-tech companies such as Microsoft and Symantec in the area, but in some areas of the town and among some demographics the proportion of the population without internet access is still much worse than the UK average.

Get Online Reading aims to use Reading’s highly literate population to help those who don’t have the skills or opportunity to make use of the internet.

We run drop-in sessions in several of Reading’s central libraries and other community venues all over the town. Since the project started in 2015 we have run over 1000 drop-in sessions at 16 venues and helped more than 3000 visitors to make use of a computer, smartphone or tablet. The project has more than 30 volunteers who give more than 1500 hours of their time each year. We have also advised visitors on getting broadband at home.

The type of support provided by the volunteers varies depending on the demand on the day - at most sessions volunteers provide one-to-one support, while at some they may lead a session on a particular topic of interest to the group (e.g. Excel spreadsheets, digital photography or online shopping).

Volunteers have also been involved with renovating computers for the Elevate Community Hub (employment services for young people) in the central library building, for use by community volunteers and young jobseekers, and for Launchpad, a local homeless charity.

There are plans for the scheme to expand to more community locations and to further support community groups, and to engage with organisations supporting people with disabilities. We have already held sessions at Reading Deaf Centre with the support of a BSL interpreter, and hope to expand this kind of session further.

The scheme’s ultimate aim is to help break down some of the barriers to accessing the internet and digital services experienced by Reading residents, and consequently increase digital inclusion. In addition to increasing digital confidence, other benefits include decreasing financial exclusion and social isolation, increasing consumer choice, increasing community empowerment and general improvement of life chances.

An indirect benefit is likely to be an increase in the number of more hard-to-reach residents visiting community buildings and are consequently able to access other services, activities and social opportunities.

Among those that have benefited from the scheme already are two friends who, when they first appeared at the drop-in session in the Central Library, had never used a computer before. They became repeat visitors, and both purchased tablet computers and later laptops. One of the two friends who visited the drop-in sessions regularly has since found employment.

Another visitor that benefited from the scheme needed to make a video for an online job application and did not have access to the right equipment. With our help she made the final shortlist, and although she ultimately did not get the job offer she told us afterwards that the experience was very positive and that she felt confident to make the same kind of application again in future.

In addition to the clients, many of the volunteers will also benefit from the scheme. Volunteers work in teams, and through this teamwork many of them have learned new skills. Indeed, several volunteers have already been helped into employment by working for the scheme, and we anticipate that this will continue.

The scheme is now looking to secure funding for 2019/20.

Project Video

Reading Voluntary Action

When helping someone to learn there is nothing like seeing the moment when it all 'clicks into place' - the moment when someone, with your help, has just talked to a friend or family member over the internet for the first time or succeeded with their first online job application.

Location: Reading Central Library, Reading, UK