Merkinch Goes Online. Merkinch Partnership

Merkinch Partnership

Charity registered in Scotland SC042835

  • From 1st April 2015 to 31st March 2016
  • Award: £13,650 via Call 2

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Project plan

Project description

We want to deliver a project in Merkinch which supports local people living in poverty to access online services and resources which will help them to build skills, improve their economic circumstances and give them opportunities to build new links in their own community.

The project will deliver a rolling programme of information sessions and practical skills activities for 7 hours per week on the following topics – using the internet, basic literacy, online banking, access to affordable credit, comparing fuel tariffs online and the benefits system.
The project will have several outcomes
• Local people will have increased access to digital services and resources,
• They will have increased skills and confidence
• The project will reduce poverty and increase financial inclusion
• Fuel poverty will be reduced
• More people will have access to affordable credit and incomes will be increased.



Project milestones:
At the beginning of April we circulated information about the project to the local community and to our partner agencies and stakeholders, recruited our sessional worker and booked the venue for the workshops.

The first workshop session was held on 20th April 2015 and workshops have continued each week since then. So far a total of 40 people have taken part in at least one workshop, with about 20 people taking part in multiple workshop sessions, ranging in age from 20 to 65 years of age.

Since our last update we have continued to deliver workshop sessions on basic keyboard skills, using job search websites effectively, navigating a tablet, basic typing skills, using e-mail, social networking online and online shopping. The workshops have been well attended and people have been very positive in their feedback. Most people taking part have attended more than one workshop session and we are happy for people to come to as many sessions as they need to.

A lot of our service users are in the older age groups and feel that they take a bit longer to learn and retain new information! The sessional worker delivering the workshops is very patient and has excellent interpersonal skills which has made a big difference to the project. Up until the date of this update on 9th September a total of 90 people have taken part in the project since it started in April. A total of 56 of these 90 people took part in multiple workshop sessions. Most of the participants have no or very few digital skills so the learning activities need to start from the very basics.

Lack of confidence is also a big issue for the participants as well as low levels of literacy, in particular spelling and grammar. Some of these barriers are harder to overcome than others but we do see people increase in confidence and express the desire to learn more and improve their skills. All of this makes the project challenging but very rewarding for both staff and participants

Outputs and outcomes:
There has been a demand for the project with 84 people taking part in workshop sessions during the period April to September 2015. 64% of participants were male, with 53% of participants being over 50 years old. Only 3 young people aged 16 to 24 years took part in the project.

Participants stated that they have grown in confidence and motivation in accessing digital services and going online but still need quite a high level of support and guidance and will continue to do so after they have taken part in the project. This support is not readily available at other locations where digital access is available.

The activities most in demand were basic keyboard skills, navigating digital devices, using Universal Jobmatch, basic typing skills, CVs, using e-mail, online shopping, navigating the internet and interview skills.

The activities least in demand were basic grammar and spelling, budgeting and financial products.

90% of participants stated that they have learned new skills and 60% of these participants stated that they have increased confidence in putting these skills into practice. However 40% of participants stated that they need additional learning activities to reinforce their new skills and that they will need on-going support to help them put their skills into practice. The participants who stated this were mainly those in the 50+ year’s age group.

During the period April to September 2015 a total of 17 participants in the project moved from DWP benefits into employment.

In terms of outcomes for the people and groups we care about, the project activities were developed in response to recognised community needs and statistical evidence. Activities and duration of workshops were flexible in order to respond effectively to the needs of the participants.

The project was designed to address the issues of poverty and lack of skills and most of the participants were experiencing these inequalities. 90% of participants in the project were unemployed, claiming benefits and had low skills levels. The project provided an opportunity for local people to address the issue of lack of skills and gave them the motivation and confidence to continue with their learning, access additional opportunities for personal development and to improve their economic situation. This is backed up by feedback from the participants which was captured through using Survey Monkey questionnaires and through informal feedback.

Lessons learned:

Things that worked well:
Partnership working with Job Centre Plus was particularly successful with work coaches making a large number of referrals to the project and circulating information about the project to their service users.

Throughout the project we promoted learning as our main priority and encouraged the participants to continue with their learning and to access further resources to improve their skills.

The flexible and informal way in which the project was delivered made it easy for people to engage with the activity. Learning activities were tailored to suit the needs of the individual participants, which encouraged them to take part in more workshop sessions. Workshop groups were small, no more than 3 to 4 people, which encouraged people with low levels of confidence to take part.

Participants did not have to sign up to a weekly commitment to attend the activity. Attendance was flexible and not limited to the amount of workshops a person could attend.

• We will continue to deliver the project over the next six months, looking at the issues of: Consultation with young people aged between 16 and 24 years
• Addressing with our partners the issue of the requirement for support for people going online at other locations e.g. the local library or community centre
• Signposting participants to additional learning activities to reinforce the new skills they have achieved and to increase levels of confidence in using these skills.

Our digital work is delivered in partnership with: