Castlehill Housing Association launched their tenant led digital inclusion activities on 20th February 2020.  Digital Motivator, Catherine Coutts, Tenant Participation Officer, and Digital Champion who is also a tenant, Ken Wilcox, tell us more. 

What digital inclusion activities are you delivering

Digital Motivator Catherine: Our tenant participation group at Castlehill Housing Association (CaRTO) has devised a pilot initiative to help residents at one of our sheltered housing schemes to get online. 

Residents at Queen Elizabeth Court in Fettercairn will learn how to use digital devices to search the internet, keep in touch with their families and use video calling, as part of efforts to help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

CaRTO has ensured that the scheme has secure broadband and connectivity in the common room and has provided means of accessing the internet, which tenants can use at any time.  A group of Digital Champions from CaRTO came along to help fellow tenants use the available tools and develop necessary skills to access the wide variety of services available. 

Why is digital inclusion work in Housing important? 

Digital Motivator Catherine: Having signed up to the Digital Participation Charter and taken part in the Digital Champions in Housing project with SCVO, we know that 20% of people in Scotland lack the essential digital skills to fully participate in modern life.  

Those who have no means of accessing the internet are more likely to face other forms of social exclusion and inequality. With more and more services moving online, we want to help tackle these inequalities by giving our tenants the tools and support to thrive in a digital world.” 

Digital Champion KenIn our research and talking to tenants we found that being unable to access the internet can increase feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

It is fantastic to be able to keep in touch with friends and family by text and email and even video calling, and it is hoped that we’ll be able to show tenants how to do this with our training sessions. 

How did the launch go? 

Digital Motivator Catherine: The project launch went really well!  There seems to be a ‘buzz’ about the project and tenants were keen to get started.   

We provided 4 tablets, which we have made as user-friendly as possible, and these will remain on site for anyone to pick up and use whenever they like. We started from scratch, beginning with how to turn the device on and access the internet. This was led by Digital Champions from our tenants group CaRTO, who managed to get everyone in the room engaged and involved. I think it was more effective having tenants leading it, rather than me, as they made it more relatable.  

They did searches for music and films and there was a lot of animated chat about this. Something that really stood out was a tenant who asked for help to do an online food shop (for delivery the next day!) as he had no means of easily getting to a supermarket himself.  

Tells us more about the tenant who was looking for support with online shopping! 

Digital Motivator Catherine: Derek lives in a sheltered scheme in a rural location.  Public transport links have been cut to the nearest town, and the route to the next town is limited and impractical, especially for people with mobility issues. He had to give up his car recently and has since been reliant upon purchasing his groceries from the local store.  The local store has a small and limited range of stock and is very expensive compared to supermarkets.   

Derek asked for help to order his food shopping online and have it delivered to his home.  He had never used a digital device before and had no experience of being online.  We set him up with an email address, registered an account with Tesco and walked him through the whole process of selecting items, adding to his basket, making any changes, selecting a delivery slot and paying for his groceries.   

Derek was so pleased that we’d taken the time to explain things to him.  He said he could never have managed it himself.  Having the ability to order his food online will save him money, give him the freedom to buy what he wants (instead of buying what the local store has available) and will hopefully give him the confidence to explore more online.  We will visit him again next week and continue to support him in his online journey.  

What’s next for your digital inclusion work? 

Digital Motivator Catherine: CaRTO’s Digital Campions and I will be visiting the scheme weekly for a very informal digital surgery to keep the momentum going.   

The tablets are set up with Webex so that if a tenant is stuck doing something, we can see what’s on their screen remotely and help them out.  The scheme is 30 miles away so we can’t just pop in - we wouldn’t want someone to have to wait for our weekly visit if there was something they really wanted to do, so we thought this could be a good solution. 

If the pilot proves successes, we hope the initiative will be rolled-out to other sites in the future.