Better digital skills for better lives

01 Feb 2018 |Written by Nicola Speake


It's widely acknowledged that improved digital skills is a good thing. There's lots of evidence telling us that digitally included people save money, have better opportunities to get on in life and are better connected to friends and family in a digital world. And for many, improved digital skills have proven fundamental in helping turn their life from bad to better.

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This is something we have been testing and learning about through the Reboot UK project, which we've been leading along with our consortium partners Family Fund, Mind and Homeless Link. The project has investigated the transformative powers of digital on vulnerable and excluded people, including carers, homeless people and people with mental health needs. Today we're sharing some of the impacts from the second phase of the project.

We know that entrenched digital exclusion amongst vulnerable people makes it harder for them to break free from dependency on support services. The Reboot project aimed to address this, by embedding digital skills support into the existing service offer of local partners, rather than treating it as a bolt on.

In the second phase of the project, over 1,400 socially excluded people developed basic digital skills, through 35 community organisations. 84% of people supported showed improved wellbeing following the support received. The wraparound support - along with a friendly face and a cup of tea, helped people to overcome barriers and access learning, which helped people plan better for their future, understand how to stay well, and see a clearer route to progress to employment and volunteering.

The rationale behind the Reboot UK delivery model is applicable to any disadvantaged group in society. The needs of the groups we're supporting are unique, but there are a number of similarities with other vulnerable audiences, like people with learning disabilities, people who don't have English as a first language or the long-term unemployed. These people often have complex lives and are facing a number of challenges, so digital skills aren't a priority - and even if they were, targeted and personalised support is scarce. Reboot UK has enabled local services to support the wider digital needs of the people they're already working within a flexible way, which can be delivered in a familiar environment by staff and volunteers who are trusted.

It seems apt to launch the Reboot UK report on #TimetoTalk day, which is encouraging everyone to talk about their mental health, listen and change lives. Reboot UK has done exactly that, for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

It's changed the lives of people like Ross, who has used technology to understand how to stay well.

"I was at risk of drinking again. Now I'm starting to see life again, and my future. Before, I was a bit unsure about getting into society. Reboot has helped me to feel better."

The need for recovery and reintegration for excluded people suffering from mental health issues, today of all days, can't be ignored, and we think digital can have a huge role to play in this. At Good Things Foundation, this is something that we're passionate about. The Reboot UK project forms part of our wider Social Inclusion programme, which aims to tackle social issues powered by digital. What we've found through Reboot UK will help to inform future partnerships, projects, and to develop better, more targeted support for those who need it most.

We're now moving into the third phase of Reboot UK - made possible through funding from the Big Lottery Fund - where we will consolidate, refine and disseminate the learnings and resources from the first two years of delivery. Through the partnership with Mind, Homeless Link and local delivery partners in the Online Centres Network, we'll be embedding digital skills support into frontline service delivery, aiming to create systemic changes in the mental health and homelessness sector which, we hope, will be sustained long after the project has ended.