Argyll & Bute Third Sector Interface
Charity registered in Scotland SC029947
- From 1st June 2015 to 1st December 2015
- Award: £14,522 via Call 2
To provide monthly drop-in Digital clubs in the 6 main settlements of Argyll & Bute. The clubs will advise and support people to use email accounts, social media, Skype, webchat and to browse the internet safely. An online resource will replicate this to reach remote areas. We expect to provide learning opportunities as a gateway to developing skills, reduce isolation and help build social capital. People will have a support network and become more confident as a result.
A second phase will take the Digital drop-ins to the rural Highland areas, enabling access where current provision is not available.
The drop-in clubs will be open to everyone but aimed primarily at older, disabled, or vulnerable individuals; those who do not have IT skills and who could benefit from learning a new skill. We also will have young volunteers (who are very IT savvy) to support older people thus facilitating an intergenerational exchange of support.
This project commenced 1st June 2015, and this report covers the period to end July 2015.
We initially commenced delivery ‘close to home’ within Argyll with very successful learning sessions which became known as Techy Clinics in Helensburgh, with IT skills classes in Dunoon, and with some classes aligned with one to one support in South Kintyre, in and around Campbeltown.
These have all proved extremely successful and have attendances between 10 and 16 at each session.
In practice the sessions in Helensburgh were so popular that these are now being delivered weekly, and sessional staff are supporting these alongside young volunteers, many of whom are keen to pass on their skills and interact with older people.
In Campbeltown a smaller group of around 10 has been facilitated, and this has been coupled with one to one support, responding to demand and need, and to date we have engaged with 37 older people in that area.
Classes in Dunoon have proved extremely popular with local people, gaining skills for the first time and starting to connect with each other and with distant families through skype and social media. For some this has proved to be a lifeline, and the co-ordinator has noted how many sessions in all three areas have brought laughter alongside learning.
Plans to deliver across the Highland region are in place and we have included Dornoch, Fort William, Beauly, and Ullapool to give a mix of rural and centres of population. These will be longer drop-in sessions enabling a greater number of participants to engage and will be followed up with online and digital support where this is appropriate.
As the project draws toward its final weeks, we can look back at the progress made and the people and places which have been an integral part of this journey.
Classes within Argyll & Bute have been extremely popular, and in Dunoon and Helensburgh no one wants them to close. We have also been asked if we can deliver ongoing classes in Oban where the demand has been consistently high.
Campbeltown classes will now run until January, and will be reviewed then given that funding has now been exhausted we will need to look at how future service might be resourced. Rothesay and Lochgilphead as expected given the much smaller population had lower attendance averaging around 8 – 10 attendees at any time.
Over the period from June a total of 237 people have attended; some people have found one or two sessions has given them the tools they require whilst others for whom the concept of digital was new have attended on a more regular basis. Still others have popped back when things have not quite worked as they hoped or they have had specific problems. In all cases we have been able to help and support.
Further afield, due to staffing issues the Highland drop-ins started later than originally planned but have also been well received and attended. We spoke in advance to local communities to ascertain the local need and this meant some slight changes to the locations used.
We learned that Fort William had access to services similar to that planned but discovered an unmet need, and a welcome in Kinlochleven where we set up the drop-in and were surprised by the numbers of people who were keen to take advantage and to learn skills.
Dornoch also was a rewarding experience and we received excellent feedback (given below). Dornoch and District Community Association were extremely helpful with venue and arrangements and if funding were again available we would be delighted to return.
Ullapool felt a long way distant but in early autumn sunshine provided a perfect setting and again, was much appreciated.
Overall, in the Highlands area we supported 63 people to gain skills and to start to use social media, email and Skype.
We have achieved developing skills for a total of 300 people who previously were not using IT or to a very low level and who were unable to manage e.g. Skype, email and the social networks which connect people through a range of options and across continents.
Skype in particular was a popular choice for people to learn because of its advantages in connecting people who may be distant relatives, irrespective of whether they lived elsewhere in Scotland of the UK or on the other side of the world. Keeping in touch with family is very important, especially to older people and being able to communicate and see each other was something quite special when people were connected for the first time.
Quotes and feedback typically were as quoted here:
‘I wanted to say how valuable the Digit All drop in session was today. I struggle to keep up with today’s technology and this session was exactly what I have been looking for. The people running the session were kind and patient and helped me a lot’
‘fantastic – never thought at my age I would be able to master this. The young people were so kind, and gave me every help I needed.’
‘I came to the first class, and then kept on coming – every week I learn something new and Ian is brilliant, look forward to this every week.’
Feedback collected has given us 98% excellent results and a growing demand which we will need to work to fulfil.
We have learned over the course of this project that, generally, numbers of people do want ongoing classes, and once introduced to the digital world, tend to want more of it. Also, even for those who do not need ongoing classes, having somewhere to drop back in when problems are experienced is greatly valued. We found that not only the skills to use digital IT across the range but that there was also a need to ‘fix’ problems with laptops or pc’s when these arose. Most problems we were able to rectify, with just a few needing specialised IT assistance.
We introduced more learning around keeping safe online as this showed a clear demand, and is important for all ages. Some of the news headlines had led to people feeling if they were online this meant they were vulnerable and we therefore ensured clear support to keep safe.
Outputs and outcomes
Over the course of the project, we delivered 36 classes and drop-ins locally, and 8 in total over the Highland region. This enabled us to reach a total of 300 people and to facilitate learning for some, over a period of time. Tablets were a popular choice and we made use of these at every location. In particular, for older people these were light, easy to use, and did everything that a laptop could do. With the exception of Outlook, most people did not want or use the office software and their main focus was around keeping in touch, browsing, using social media and building social contacts online and email.
Thus the outputs were achieved as set out originally. Currently, the ‘techy clinics’ as they have come to be known continue in Helensburgh, the classes in Campbeltown will continue until January and in Dunoon also, a small scale service is continuing. We will require to seek resourcing to continue over the medium and longer term and also to re-establish classes, or drop-ins in Oban. Rothesay has the benefit of a volunteer who will provide some support as needed, although again, we need to look at a longer term solution. In Lochgilphead we have worked with Mid Argyll Youth Project and it may well be possible to utilise their premises in future to run occasional drop-ins if we can identify a pan Argyll resourcing.
In terms of outcomes, these are evidenced from attendance, feedback, comments and ongoing demand. At times the drop-ins and cafes were very busy, with larger number of people calling in and in Oban we needed to limit the numbers to ensure people were able to benefit from one to one support.
We have, therefore, evidence that 300 people have learned new skills, and state that they’re comfortable and confident using the internet, and using social media. We know this because we now have people keeping in touch with us using email, social media and other mechanisms, and letting us know how they have been able to contact distant relatives or friends, whom they may not have seen for several years.
A further outcome has been the number of people who have decided to become volunteers, and who are now more involved with their local communities in a range of ways. As an interface we see this daily, from the various interactions and matches made between volunteers, and individual and organisational recipients of volunteer time. Young people have said they have benefitted from teaching and supporting older people and this has given them a better understanding of that generation. We have been encouraged by this, and by the willingness of younger people to share their skills and knowledge – and also the patience and understanding they have shown. This demonstrates the way this project has brought members of communities together and we know that a number remain in contact.
An aim at the outset was to reduce social isolation and the skills acquired by older people, the friendships forged and peer support which has emerged is also testament to this being achieved. For many people a social network can be as important, lively and relevant and face to face, and this is reflected in the number of people who now have a Facebook account for example and are able to meet like-minded people virtually. Many people did not realise that they could follow an organisation or company and be involved without having to travel. Others are following policy agenda, both local and national and this has opened up new ways to engage, to feel empowered and connected. This has put people in touch via communication webs, access to sources of support and advice and given some a basis for a shared identity where they have joined specific groups.
They are in fact, building social capital and stronger networks through their involvement.
Things that worked well:
• All classes were successful, well used and often oversubscribed
• The Highland drop-ins were well attended and much appreciated, particularly in smaller communities who often say they feel overlooked
• Peer support and friendship was forged at all sessions, and this has continued after people have stopped attending or attending regularly
• Social isolation has been mitigated to a degree and there is a sense further work could build on aspects of this
• The acquisition of skills has been demonstrable, and the consequent building of confidence
• Local classes were relatively easy to identify venues.
Things that we would do differently next time:
• Allow for greater travel and subsistence costs, particularly over Highland areas
• Establish resourcing for a longer timescale; over 6 months we have achieved a lot and built demand, we now have to identify further resourcing to meet that demand
• Enable greater coverage of the rural and remote areas, although broadband can be an issue both in Argyll and in some Highland areas
• Resource a greater level of catering
We feel and know that the project has been successful and that we have achieved the original outputs. We are also aware of the level of demand and ongoing need. There are clearly further benefits and outcomes which could follow a longer and more robustly resourced project.
Feedback is excellent, and we are confident that the skills acquired will help support people for the longer term.