Keeping you connected – digital inclusion and you
We met with our Digital Inclusion Champion, Sejal Sanghvi, to find out more about what digital inclusion is and how the team are supporting customers to get online.
Hi Sejal, what is digital inclusion and how does it help customers?
Sejal: Digital inclusion means having the skills and motivation to use the internet and devices such as smartphones and laptops. If you lack one, or a combination of these skills, you may be digitally excluded. The risk with excluding yourself from all things digital is that you’re missing out on so much – especially as more and more services are now online.
We’ve found that by not being digitally involved, you could be missing out on financial support too. For (UC) claims must now be submitted online. So, if you don’t have access to the internet, you’ll miss out on vital funding for you and your family.
Being digitally included can help make everyday tasks, such as doing your grocery shop, easier too. Once you’ve opened an online account you can order your shopping to be delivered to your home.
There’s lots of fun stuff you can do too; such as catching up on films, TV and radio shows, visiting museums and famous landmarks, listening to audio books and chatting to friends and family via direct video or social media.
Can you tell us a little about your role and what it involves?
Sejal: My role is to support the digital inclusion project and encourage colleagues to find out more about what support customers need, and how we can offer this to them.
We know digital inclusion isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach. We offer a range of support to help make it accessible and engaging for everyone. For some it’s starting from scratch – setting up email accounts and learning how to create online shopping accounts; for others it’s helping them use their existing digital knowledge to find out more about the issues that are important to them.’
There’s so much out there – you can find out about local events and activities, training, development opportunities, free online learning and webinars.
What kind of support do you offer customers?
Sejal: The project has been active within our communities for three years now. During this time, we’ve continued to develop our services and support to now offer:
- One-to-one digital training support
- Group training sessions at our community centres
- Partnerships with other service providers to offer wider support
- Help for customers to apply for our digital inclusion device grant, to provide them with devices such as tablets or mobile Wi-Fi
- Support customers to become digital inclusion volunteers within their community.
Is this support available to all customers?
Sejal: Yes, our digital inclusion support is available to all customers. Where we can’t provide the service first hand, we work with local organisations to make sure we can deliver digital inclusion support and training, where needed.
Currently, most of our community centres are still closed, but you can find out more about how we’re trying to deliver services and support on our website, and on communal noticeboards in your block or estate.
How has lockdown affected the support you offer?
Sejal: We introduced the digital inclusion grant in response to Covid-19. We’ve worked closely with the Wellbeing team to help us speak to customers who need digital inclusion support. The project has been particularly helpful for customers who have been shielding or who live alone and have therefore felt more isolated during lockdown.
Do you have any projects or regular sessions that customers can get involved with?
Sejal: Before Covid-19, the digital inclusion project was mainly delivered through our community centres, where we offered training for our customers at convenient times and locations.
Since Covid-19, a great deal of this support has been through online one-to-one video calls. These have centred around supporting customers to develop their digital knowledge, to help them stay in touch with family and friends, as well as access the services or
support they need. It’s been a sharp learning curve for many, but it’s been really rewarding to see customers who never thought they’d want or need access to Wi-Fi or video calling, really embrace how easy and accessible it is.
We’re looking at reintroducing our online digital group training sessions and digital connectors volunteering programme, so we can help customers connect with us in the best ways for them.