Future Digital Inclusion

The Future Digital Inclusion programme, run by Good Things Foundation and funded by the Department for Education (previously the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) aims to help people to improve their basic digital skills by using the deep reach of the Online Centres Network to support some of the hardest to reach groups in society.

218 organisations in the Online Centres Network were funded through the Future Digital Inclusion programme.
278,589 people were reached, supported and trained in basic digital skills.
5,000+ centre partners and access points were supported through non-funded means to take digital skills into their communities.

Key groups reached by the programme are:

Unemployed people
Low-skilled people
Disabled people

In 2015-16 the programme also reached a significant number of people in HBAI income poverty (27% of people reached), people who live in social/sheltered housing (37%), and those in receipt of means-tested benefits (60%).

Key Findings

Organisations within the Online Centres Network are an effective way to provide basic digital skills and other skills to hard-to-reach groups

  • Digital inclusion activity is shown to be most effective when offered as part of a broad-spectrum support package that tackles other forms of disadvantage.
  • Many centres offer additional support with functional skills, employability skills and careers advice, accredited and non-accredited further learning, ESOL, financial capability, and health and wellbeing.
  • Specialist centres within the wider network also offer expert support to key groups, including disabled people, carers, older people, people living in rural areas, people in social housing, people seeking work, and those who need help with digital access.
62% of future digital inclusion learners progressed to, towards or within employment
83% progressed to further learning
70% progressed to using online government services

The Future Digital Inclusion Programme adds value to the Online Centres Network

  • Grant funding was allocated to 188 members of the Online Centres Network, working with unemployed and low-income learners, and 30 centres working with disabled people or in rural areas.
  • Good Things Foundation also co-ordinated and supported over 5,000 centres in the network, with:
    • Free online learning platform Learn My Way.
    • Free marketing collateral.
    • Advice, training, and advocacy.
    • National campaigns such as Get Online Week.
  • Non-grant funded centres in the network contributed significantly to the Future Digital Inclusion programme - 64% of Learn My Way registrations came from centres that did not receive grant funding, but were supported by Good Things Foundation in other ways.

Centres within the Online Centres Network act as pathways to further education

  • Many centres encourage learners into Further Education by providing advice and guidance on FE options, and by re-engaging people who have been excluded from learning for a long time.
  • Partnerships between centres and FE providers resulted in outreach classes to encourage learners to engage in Further Education. Learners who chose to move on to Further Education were then supported through these partnerships.
  • Many centres established internal progression pathways, allowing learners to easily progress from informal learning to qualifications.

Target audience: Unemployed

Unemployed people have been a core audience for the programme this year, with 31% of learners identifying themselves as unemployed and 4 out of 10 job-seekers attending a UK online centre doing so following a referral from a Jobcentre or Work Programme provider. Baseline skills for unemployed learners are slightly higher than the average learner, and they tend to be looking for support with specific online activities like CV upload, job search and application. 56% of unemployed learners don’t have the skills required to complete an online form, and 24% had neither home or personal (i.e. smartphone) internet access to an internet-connected device when they started learning. 85% of unemployed learners were using the internet to find work, but also cited other interests including work-related learning (63%), using local and national government services (39%) and finding health information (37%).

Target audience: Low-skilled

People with low skills are another key group of the Future Digital Inclusion programme - defined as those educated below Level 2: 63% of all learners and 59% of working-age learners had undertaken no learning or training - including informal or non-accredited learning - in the three years before attending the centre, suggesting that centres are playing an important role in re-engaging learners, and breaking a cycle of exclusion from education. Younger learners are more interested in accessing a broad range of support from their UK online centre, including literacy and numeracy, as well as study towards a qualification. Thanks to support from the programme, learners are able to better manage housing issues (55%), to manage money and changing financial circumstances (50%), and have greater independence (67%). 71% of learners report increased confidence.

Target audience: Disabled people

Another key audience of the Future Digital Inclusion project was disabled people. Disabled people are more likely to be educated below Level 2, to be in income poverty and to live in social or sheltered housing. Overall, they are much more likely to meet at least one social exclusion criterion. Interests tend to focus on online activities like shopping, banking and budgeting, but with significantly higher interest with using the internet to keep in touch with family and friends, to find health information and to access government services. Disabled learners are less likely to have access to access to the internet at home, and so their skill levels tend to be lower. However, progression for these groups is impressive, with 84% progressing to further learning. This group also report feeling less isolating and reporting increased independence following the support they receive from UK online centres.

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