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Reboot UK: improving health and wellbeing through digital technology

Blog posted by: Tasmin Maitland, monday, 18 July 2016.

How can we support people to improve their health and wellbeing through digital technology? Led by Tinder Foundation in partnership with Homeless Link, Mind and Family Fund, Reboot UK aims to find out.

Since January, Reboot UK delivery partners have been testing innovative approaches to get people online. We’re working with Cathedral Archer Project and Evolve Housing + Support on interventions including peer mentoring and Open Cinema programmes to find out what works for digital inclusion in day centre and supported accommodation settings.

Cathedral Archer Project

Cathedral Archer Project provides day services in Sheffield, from basic facilities and crisis support to a structured volunteer programme and activities programme.

Since starting Reboot UK, Cathedral Archer’s volunteers have been helping out with the Works group every Monday morning. This group offers a friendly environment where clients can concentrate their job search – for many, this is a vital part of their week. As one client said “Just having a space that’s easy to get to is a real lifesaver”. Everyone in the group is in a similar position and a sense of camaraderie really flows from this, helping each other and sharing their tips and tricks.

Elsewhere, volunteers have developed peer mentoring and the response has been really positive, clocking in 152 individual one-to-one sessions with 47 clients in the first five months. These sessions cover those basic digital skills that many people would take for granted, like internet access and using a mouse.

We ensure each client has their own email and, if they want it, Facebook account. If a client wants to use social media we help them to understand what they’re doing and how to keep safe online. We’ve also set up access to job search, benefit claims, CVs, housing, YouTube and Twitter.

Open Cinema support us to deliver a film club each week. Our clients come together to share their love of film, and discussions have ranged from the realities of AI in Ex Machina to how the alien vistas were created in Star Wars.     

Reboot UK has reached people like James. Initially, James was depressed at times and in a vulnerable place. He did his best to avoid computers, saying that computers and him “don’t get on with each other”. We spent time with him and found that there was nothing James loves more than using Google to look at old Fords. This led to him socialising around the computer area, then branching out to use sites like E-bay and Amazon to look for the cars he loves, within a group sharing a common interest. This success has set the tone of Reboot UK in improving the mental wellbeing of people like James by bringing them closer to those around them. 

Improving the mental wellbeing of their clients is a priority at Cathedral Archer. We believe that getting clients together behind a screen, rather than through one, is incredibly important as we don’t want them to trade one form of isolation for another.

Evolve Housing + Support

Evolve Housing + Support is a homelessness and community support charity working with around 1500 people each year in and around London. We provide support on their journey into independent living, whether this is through health and wellbeing, or work and learning programmes. Our Digital Inclusion Programme launched in January 2016 to give homeless people in London the opportunity to gain digital skills and explore the benefits of being online, such as employment, accommodation and healthcare.

A Digital Inclusion Coordinator delivers the course, alongside volunteers covering basic IT skills training, CV workshops and partnering with Open Cinema Foundation to bring contemporary films of our customers’ choice to our hostels in Lambeth and Croydon.

In the first months of the project, 60 people engaged with Reboot to increase their digital presence and develop skills. Customers soon experienced the benefits, including Olywn Popperwell: “I was finding out things I didn’t know you could actually do on a computer, like attach your CV. My confidence has been built up in the IT classes and now I’ve got a job with Amazon.”  Olwyn was supported to move on to his own accommodation through these IT workshops and has gone on to become a peer mentor. As a peer mentor, he will support other customers using his experiences. He said “Even when I was a customer, I was saying I wouldn’t mind getting involved, it’s about giving something back.”

10 people signed up as peer mentors in the project’s first phase and 9 of them are Evolve customers. They will continue to be supported in this role with training and supervision.

Mohammed Khan, another peer mentor, is studying for a Higher National Diploma in Health and Social Care Management. He’s planning to apply to Evolve’s traineeship programme in the next round of recruitment.  In addition to the satisfaction of helping and supporting other customers, volunteers are achieving their own goals, for example one Reboot volunteer is now employed with KPMG.

Evolve have also been able to offer accreditation through the City & Guilds Level 1 IT course and teach customers the key digital skills needed to help them to move into employment and independent living. This includes how to publish CVs online, search for jobs, set up email accounts, property searches and more.

Knowing what works

Tinder Foundation’s interim findings for Reboot UK demonstrate the value of having dedicated resources in homelessness services to offer a range of interventions, personalised to individual needs. Peer mentoring and Open Cinema have been really successful in creatively engaging people who would not normally attend computer classes. At the same time, Reboot coordinators have ensured that support is available to teach the skills needed for urgent tasks such as job searches and CV writing.

Digital skills will play an increasingly vital role in reducing the exclusion that people experience as a result of homelessness. Homeless Link looks forward to continuing our work on Reboot UK with Tinder Foundation and Big Lottery, so that we find ways to reach more people and realise the benefits of digital inclusion to help end homelessness.

 

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