Charity registered in Scotland SC028506
Atrium Homes is a registered social landlord and Scottish charity, supplying, managing and maintaining over 1,250 affordable rented properties across nine different towns in Ayrshire. It is a ‘not for profit’ company. Atrium is a financially sound, well run and highly regarded organisation and is considered to be low engagement by the Scottish Housing Regulator which we have been advised is a reflection of Atrium’s effective management of its operating risks. Atrium is fully committed to providing good quality housing at affordable rents, while creating communities which are pleasant for people to live in and raise their families. We believe our customers are key and put them at the core of everything we do. For 18 years it has provided services to its customers and has a highly experienced management team, staff and Board.
- From 1st September 2018 to 31st March 2019
- Award: £8,821 via Call 6
Atrium would like to deliver basic digital skills to its customers. While we think digital inclusion is important in its own right, we are also keen to address other issues that working age and younger people may face, such as the need to access information and services, the need to apply for benefits online, the ability to search for employment and the need to make the best use of limited finances.
Through an initial consultation event, we will understand the kinds of barriers to getting online that affect vulnerable people and to find out more about what people want from the internet. We will then develop relevant ‘hooks’ in response to local needs and interests to attract people to weekly drop in sessions. The sessions will be designed to be engaging, fun and informative and based on the type of devices most people are familiar with. Sessions will be repeated multiple times to ensure that participants can be kept to a small number and initial assessments will allow people to be grouped together based on skill levels.
Following the consultation Atrium will develop a timetable of weekly drop in sessions (over a 5 month period). These will be co-ordinated and delivered in the first instance by a newly recruited Digital Assistant. The Assistant will look to identify individuals who attend to offer additional training and capacity building to develop them as a peer tutor/ digital champion. Atrium will support the Digital Assistant with its own existing staff, dependent on the level of take up of the service.
In addition, there will be one to one sessions available to offer tailored support to individuals who would like assistance on a specific topic. These will be offered on the same day, but in appointment slots.
Complete recruitment of Digital Assistant, hold consultation event and develop timetable of sessions
Evaluation of progress to date/take up of customers to allow potential re-shaping of project if required or promotional push
Have engaged with 60 people
Staff and volunteers trained as Digital Champions to deliver basic digital skills as part of normal service delivery
Following the appointment of our new Digital Assistant, we began to promote the availability of the service. To try and make the service separate from our mainstream landlord activity, we 'branded' the project differently and gave it its own identity with t shirts, flyers, calling cards and promotional banners. Flyers were sent to all our tenants, we promoted weekly through our Facebook page and staff promoted through their face to face contact. We also advertised locally in the community centre and other shops. Initially, we promoted both one to one sessions and workshops focussed on specific topics.
Take up of this new service has been slow with relatively few people simply approaching the service for assistance. Leads have tended to come from referrals from staff . Often people who require digital support have been identified by staff's interaction with them around their Universal Credit claim or methods of communication.
Once engaged , there has been more interest expressed through one to one sessions rather than group activity .We have found that people who have used the service are struggling to meet the foundation skills in the first instance and much of the initial time spent is working on these basic requirements . Working at the individual's own pace , it can take some time to embed these foundation skills , however it is essential to not rush this stage to ensure we can build confidence in the individual and set them achievable goals. Our experience has been we are reaching more people in an older age group and therefore work on foundation skills is required.
In moving forward , we have also offered workshop session on topics such as internet security and are looking to run a future session on finding employment. We will continue to promote the availability of the service through a mix of media and are now conducting a basic survey of skills as part of our new tenancy sign up and money advice service. The Digital Assistant is also now visiting a number of local groups carrying out presentations on the service and assessing the need/ interest to take the service out to customers as opposed to operating from our office base.
As a Registered Social Landlord, Atrium Homes wished to use the Project to improve the essential digital skills of its tenants. With an increasing number of its tenants having to make welfare applications particularly in relation to Universal Credit, Atrium had noted the number of people who struggled with the claims process, accessing online journals and generally using their smart phones, tablets etc. to manage their claim. In addition, Atrium hoped to see people using their available devices to improve communication with the organisation allowing people to access information about Atrium and its services in a way that was convenient to them.
By employing an additional resource to deliver the service Atrium, a Digital Assistant working one day per week, there was a dedicated staff member to promote the Project. This raised the profile of the service with the Digital Assistant carrying out a range of promotional activity from attending women's groups, tenants and residents groups to talk about the service to delivering flyers door to door. A number of workshop sessions were created for people to drop in and attend and these were promoted through mail drops and social media as well as individual one to one support appointments being available one day per week.
Atrium found the service slow to build interest and relatively few people self-referred following publicity. Instead, housing staff identified through their day to day engagement with tenants those that required some additional digital input or support and passed theses 'leads' to the Digital Assistant. Our experience was often that individuals simply wanted support when they came across a problem either using their device or accessing an online service and often this could be resolved in a conversation /engagement with front line staff and that they had no further interest in attending an organised session.
In reviewing the activity of the Project, Atrium has not been able to engage with the number of individuals anticipated however whilst we have experienced relatively low take up of the service, the feedback from those who have engaged has been positive. It is our belief that we will require to continue to offer this support over a prolonged period to see the benefit reach a wider audience.
Making the Connection - Atrium Homes
Prior to Project implementation, Atrium Homes had identified the requirement for an external resource to staff the Project , a Digital Assistant, to ensure a dedicated commitment to progressing further milestones. During the early months, a job description and person specification were developed and the post advertised. Approaches were also made to local colleges and the post advertised locally. Following interviews we were successful in making an appointment in early December with the Digital Assistant coming in to post on 14th January 2019.
In parallel with the recruitment process, we wanted to find out more from our customer base about their digital skills and type of equipment most used. To do this we launched a Digital Survey at a pop up event on 21st November 2018 ,held within our offices, promoted on social media, our website and throughout our communities by flyers and other advertising. At the pop up event customers were able to find out more about the service, obtain a range of information leaflets and have the opportunity to win a new tablet. In addition, we ran a further survey competition for those with existing digital skills asking more about the type of further support they might require and offered a tablet to win also .
We've raised the profile of the service, and continue to do so, by an ongoing digital survey promoted at every customer interaction and incorporated questions into a recent comprehensive customer satisfaction survey. This feedback has allowed us to plan out the service we will be offering and now staffed we are able to start its implementation.
Whilst we went through the recruitment process we have taken the time to develop a database of interested parties who will be a priority for support for the newly appointed Digital Assistant.
Over the period of this return the Digital Assistant continues to deliver their service on a one day per week basis, operating from a central office base within Atrium's largest housing estate. Whilst support to-date was provided from this central point, during this period the Digital Assistant has begun to offer more services on an outreach basis.
They have tried to encourage participation by employing more direct communications methods as well as general advertising /promotion. Within their day they have used any spare time i.e. no appointments to hand deliver information leaflets within the local area and take time on the doorstep to tell people about the service. This has allowed the Assistant to develop a series of workshops based on the feedback they received.
Workshops on internet safety, an employment workshop covering CV building and using search engines to look for work and a session on assisting with Clothing Grant applications were held during the period.
Presentations to a number of local groups in the community such as to elderly tenants within one of Atrium's developments encouraged a number of people to sign up and come along to some joint sessions, gaining support from learning alongside their friends. Feedback from these people indicates they had been predisposed to improving their digital skills but until this point had never felt the right environment for learning was available to them. This group were comfortable to learn together and return on a weekly basis to cover new topics.
Overall, significant resources were used to encourage uptake but often resulting in only a handful of users attending. End of session satisfaction surveys have given very positive outcomes for these individuals, the greatest challenge remains increasing uptake.