Digital Inclusiveness – Surrey Choices
Surrey Choices works with disabled and autistic people who have been keeping safe at home since March 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. As part of our Digital Inclusion Strategy, Surrey Choices have been finding out what the barriers are to IT for people so they can overcome them and enable them to continue learning and staying connected whilst at keeping safe at home.
Their aim is to ensure that the people supported have access to technology and are comfortable and confident in being active online.
What was your response to Covid-19?
During lockdown Surrey Choices launched Digital Choices; a series of virtual pre-recorded and live video sessions for people to learn new skills at home and keep in touch with their friends, family and staff. It was a vital lifeline for people’s mental health and wellbeing as many were shielding at home alone or in a supported living setting without their family.
To support Digital Choices, they introduced the role of a Digitiser which involves:
- Advising the people supported on what types of IT they might want to buy for their needs
- Setting up a tablet or computer so that they can keep it touch with friends, families and Surrey Choices
- Providing short-term internet access for example, a sim card for a device if they do not have it in their home now
- Offering short-term support as people start to use their kit including: - Socially distanced visits and telephone help.
What was different about this approach?
The Digitisers have become a point of contact for the people we support needing help with any technical issues. Some of these staff have learnt new skills themselves in order to be able to support people getting online.
One of the biggest barriers to technology was the access to devices to reduce isolation. Surrey Choices received a £5,000 grant from The Community Foundation Fund for Surrey to put towards purchasing accessible devices, and Surrey based IT support, Project Five, generously offered to set up all of the devices and deliver them to people across the county. Surrey Choices is very thankful for the role both organisations played in supporting people to get online.
What was the impact and benefits for people?
In the first month of supporting people digitally, 52 people were active online, confidently seeing and talking to friends, family, Surrey Choices staff and joining in with the Digital Choices virtual sessions each week.
People were able to learn specific online skills such as using Zoom, doing their shopping online, finding recipes to cook and checking the weather forecast.
The impact has reduced isolation and increased independence:
- Friendships have been re-established
- People have become more active in their community
- Vocational learning, independent living and life skills, enhancing health and wellbeing and maintaining social skills have continued through the Digital Choices online sessions
Some of the people supported told Surrey Choices:
- “I really like the iPad - it's great to be in touch with everyone again!”
- “Since I have had the tablet, honestly seeing my friends is wonderful. It was absolutely lovely - it really made my day!”
Our staff also said:
- “Our team of Digitisers have worked their digital magic to enable three customers at a Guildford home to join Surrey Choices sessions and see their friends and staff again.”
Is the solution sustainable post Covid-19?
The digital offer is an important part of Surrey Choices, as services are developed through the Changing Days programme working with the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi), Digital Choices and the Digitisers project are becoming a key method of the way people are supported.
Running the project in this way has helped a grant go a long way to reducing isolation and enhancing independent living.
Visit the website for further information or contact via email or telephone:
01483 806 806