The thought of ‘Going Digital’ for many people can be a turn off, a daunting task or even classed as a chore. However, with all the current changes to the Welfare System and many services migrating online, Glasgow North West Citizens Advice Bureau (GNWCAB) took the opportunity to develop and engage the digital skills of the local community and support with the crucial changes that could affect their everyday living and employability.

The Benefits of Going Digital Project was pitched at a stage of building awareness of how important basic digital skills are to have and how difficult access can be, particularly in deprived areas. The project offered a chance to provide an equal opportunity to access the world of digital; from support using a computer and getting online to help with online benefit or job applications and job searching. With 90% of employers now looking for candidates to have basic digital skills and new online systems such as Universal Credit, the need to provide support to go digital has never been more crucial.

Partnering with 3 local community centres we were able to target areas where access and need was an issue. Having the support and backing of local organisations, we were able to engage with clients attending other services and groups, as well as attracting those looking specifically for digital support. Our clients were able to benefit from a drop-in session as well as the opportunity of scheduled appointments through referrals from our own Bureau as well as other community groups.

Taking the step towards digital services takes confidence and determination, especially when it is an area that you struggle with or have little to no experience with. It can be a daunting task but with a little motivation, support and trust we can all pull together to teach each other best practices that will benefit all involved.

The highlights of the project were when you see the light go on in someone’s head when they have finally grasped an issue they have persevered with. As a part of the project clients were asked to rate themselves on their own ‘Basic Digital Skill Level’, which was interesting from our viewpoint when we began to work with them.

The outcomes drew out two sides;

  • On average a client that would rate themselves 5/5 would be more tentative and unsure of using a desktop computer to create CVs or use email but when working with them they would reveal that they had little experience with desktops but more confidence with their smartphone & social media.
  • However, someone who may rate themselves 2/5 for their digital skills would have more accurately assessed their abilities and you could definitely see a marked improvement from when they initially engaged in the project.

This highlighted that people’s perceptions of ‘Digital’ could be limited to what they know about their phones and how well they know how to use them. However, allowing a client to realise their potential when using digital services and the skills that they could build was what the aim of the project was.

On reflection of the project, there are further developments that could be used to further engage clients with the project; drawing on particular motivations or interests for clients using digital services. This could include running 1:1 or group digital workshops targeting specific areas such as benefits/job applications, digital creation services such as word, excel or powerpoint or even sessions to help with the basic digital skills like using a computer, email or the internet. Having scheduled sessions specifically targeting a skill set or service could attract clients as they know exactly what they are going to get and they are able to get targeted support.

The building of partnerships, connections and trust between organisations and clients will contribute positively to the process of developing and enhancing the digital skills of those with limited access and opportunities. With support services such as this project around the country there is the opportunity for everyone to move forward confidently into the digital world and be equal in doing so!