For so many of us being engaged digitally seems like such a natural part of our day. We check the weather and the news, we engage with people we know (or would like to), we bank, we shop…all elements of our everyday lives. But, often the people who could benefit most from being online are the very ones who do not engage.

Across West Dunbartonshire we have a mixed picture of digital engagement, but one of our lowest rates is amongst our older people. Fear of computers and the internet too often leaves them missing out on chances to reminisce, connect with family, shop more cheaply…and just explore new interesting things. When we saw the Digital Participation Charter Fund had re-opened for new applications in the summer of 2017, we decided it was an opportunity too good to miss. 

At WDCVS we facilitate a wide range of peer support activities, leaving our volunteers to do their magic while we make sure the bureaucracy and backroom tasks are sorted. This seemed an ideal additional step and after a number of chats with our befriending team we knew we were good to go. Our local sheltered living complexes were all keen to get involved, so it was quite a task to choose which we would partner with – a challenge, but a really nice one to have.

The funding from SCVO allowed us to train a team of volunteers – including some great young folk from Vale of Leven Academy, Dumbarton Academy and Clydebank High School – who have delivered 138 sessions in facilities across West Dunbartonshire. Most of our sessions used tablets. We worked through the Essential Digital Skills Toolkit and explored: logging-in using passwords; connecting to the internet; setting up email; searching for music and local history topics; online shopping; connecting through social media; contacting family through Skype…and making and uploading videos for You-Tube!

One of our stars was Margaret, who at the start came along to our Oakbank sessions, quite technophobic, to find out what it was all about and ended discovering a passion for videoing…a Hollywood director in the making! 

Feedback has been very positive and the dropout rate very low. Our peer volunteers have pledged to continue to support the centres and we are looking to see how we can expand the work further across the area.

The project has been an invaluable platform for WDCVS to build a greater level of digital awareness. It has given us the space to recruit, train and support a new volunteering role which has proved popular with a mixed cohort of the local population and has given us a range of positive ambassadors. It also gave us additional physical resources to allow those sceptical of getting involved the ability to use tablets before having to commit to purchasing one of their own. A big thank you to everyone SCVO Digital and BT for their support.