Access to data and the internet is more important than ever, not only to help people stay connected but so that children can access homework; adults can access bank accounts, employment, and benefits information; and much more.
7% of adults in Wales are not online, and the impact of competing and increasing costs may mean that the ability to be online is more difficult. Digital bills have risen this year, with reports that some mobile and broadband providers have increased prices by more than 9% as part of annual rises.
With so many services now available largely online, housing associations have been working to ensure their tenants stay connected. Digital exclusion is not a new issue and over a number of years housing associations have been supporting tenants and wider communities in developing and enhancing skills and access, to enable people to be confident users of digital technology.
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Pre-loaded sim cards and digital equipment loans - Newydd Housing Association
Newydd Housing Association has been offering short-term loans of pre-loaded SIM cards and digital equipment including tablets, laptops, and smart speakers to help tenants get online and use the internet effectively and safely.
The housing association’s financial inclusion team has seen a marked increase in caseloads with a longer lead-in time for support due to the numbers of tenants needing cost of living help.
Wanting to bridge the ‘digital divide’ which prevents many tenants from making the best use of the internet, the SIM card and kit loans schemes means tenants save money on bills and purchases by not having to jump into any contract without having time to compare prices and choose the best offers.
This digital support service fills the gap if tenants don’t not have the necessary skills or knowledge to claim universal credit too.
All tenants are given the opportunity to access devices from sign-up. Tenants are identified through the digital inclusion programme and the housing department team, to ensure the devices provided make the biggest impact.
One partner, ComputerWorld, donated equipment now used by 16 tenant households. Newydd HA was also a partner in the Vale Tablet Loan Scheme, which has enabled over 100 households to access digital devices since its launch.
The association also provides online support through the Digital Support Google Classroom. The classroom is used to develop tenants’ confidence and capability around topics including:
- understanding your Android or iPhone;
- social networking;
- digital skills in the modern workplace;
- government services.
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iConnect - Monmouthshire and Melin Housing associations
The iConnect digital inclusion project aimed to help get tenants of Monmouthshire and Melin Housing associations access online services. The dedicated project officers specifically targeted digitally excluded people, including those who were economically inactive and long term unemployed, as well as businesses and working families.