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Digi-buddies for Lambeth residents

Digi-buddies 2
*The Employment Academy is no longer involved with Digi-buddies. If you would like to access this service, please click here.*

10 April 2014

Thames Reach is working in partnership with Lambeth Council to deliver an innovative new IT peer support project to help local residents get online.

“Digi-buddies” recruits volunteers with strong IT skills to support residents with online activities such as applying for benefits, setting up email accounts, applying for jobs, and buying goods and services. The scheme is currently taking place at local venues in the borough such as community centres and libraries, with sessions being run on a drop-in basis that are freely available to all.

The aim of the project is to reach out to the estimated 26,000 people in Lambeth who currently require support to meet their digital needs, and is set in the context of the changes to welfare being rolled out nationally from this year meaning that many people will be confronted with using digital technology for the first time.  Central government reforms and the introduction of Universal Credit will mean that most people claiming benefits will be encouraged to apply for and manage their claims online, significantly altering the way people engage with the current system.  By increasing awareness of the advantages of being online and providing an accessible platform for local citizens to engage with it, Thames Reach hopes to ensure that no one is excluded from using digital technology whether due to lack of experience or skills.

The project’s co-ordinator, Dorian Martinez, believes that the scheme has many additional benefits.  He says that gaining access to the internet can also enable people who experience isolation to feel socially included, and that being online can improve mental health.

“The internet has revolutionised the way modern society functions, with most services and transactions now carried out primarily online.  Yet for those who have never experienced its benefits it can be quite a daunting prospect to take those first steps to engage with it.  The Digi-buddies project recognises that people are most motivated to use digital technology when they understand its relevance to their own situation, such as downloading a favourite song or keeping in touch with friends and family.  So through interacting with and being supported by a digi-buddy to undertake such activities, it is hoped that people will gain new skills and develop confidence.”

The project was officially launched on Monday 7th April 2014 at the All Nations Baptist Church in Clapham Park, currently one of the venues staging Digi-buddy sessions, and was warmly received by individuals and representatives from a variety of agencies in the borough.  Dorian commented positively on the interest the project has attracted so far.

“It has been great to speak with people in the community about the project who have all been incredibly supportive of its aims and what it is trying to achieve.  We are receiving more requests every week to organise additional sessions in a variety of community settings, and I think that the project has an exciting year ahead as it looks to reach out to as many Lambeth residents as possible.”

Thames Reach is actively recruiting volunteers with digital skills and experience during a nine-month pilot period that started at the end of February.  Anyone interested in participating in the project or accessing the service can obtain more information by emailing Thames Reach’s Employment and Resettlement Team: erhelpdesk@thamesreach.org.uk or calling 0203 691 5111.

Digi-buddies sessions are currently being held at the following locations and times:

Tuesdays:

Lansdowne Centre

280 South Lambeth Road

London SW8 1JU  

Sessions are: 1pm-4pm

Tuesdays and Wednesdays:

Brixton Library

Brixton Oval

London SW2 1JQ   

Sessions are: 10am-1pm

Wednesdays:

All Nations Baptist Church Learning Centre

12 Poynders Road

Clapham Park

London SW4 8NY

Sessions are: 10am-1pm

Thursdays:

The Baytree Centre(these sessions are run for women only)

300 Brixton Road

London SW9 6AE

Sessions are: 1pm-4pm

Mondays and Fridays:

Streatham Tate Library

63 Streatham High Rd

London SW16 1PN

Sessions are: 1pm-5pm