Key digital skills to be provided to people who are homeless

People experiencing homelessness in Scotland are to be given the chance to learn digital skills so they can access opportunities presented online – thanks to an initiative being launched by two of Scotland’s leading homelessness charities.

Edinburgh-based Streetwork and its sister charity, Glasgow-based Simon Community Scotland, are welcoming a £250,000 Scottish Government grant to provide nationwide training and support so that people experiencing homelessness can gain the necessary skills to take advantage of digital technology, such as mobile phones, laptops, desktops and tablets.

Key digital skills to be provided to people who are homeless

Image credit: Ali Cleary

The initiative – called Get Digital – aims to make online services and opportunities more accessible. This includes looking for accommodation, connecting with friends and family, using online maps, accessing welfare benefits and applying for jobs.

People who are affected by homelessness will find their often regular contact with Streetwork and Simon Community Scotland will now include a digital skills assessment, training and support.

Kate Forbes MSP, minister for public finance and digital economy, will help officially launch the nationwide scheme at an event in Edinburgh today.

She said: “Digital should open doors for everyone. The Get Digital programme recognises the power of digital to provide those affected by homelessness with the opportunity to improve their digital skills and achieve their goals. The Scottish Government is very proud of the strong relationship we have with Streetwork and Simon Community Scotland and are pleased to support a programme like this that has the potential to change so many lives for the better.”

Spearheading the scheme at Streetwork is its Digital Inclusion Programme manager, Jamie Trout.

He said: “Without digital skills, people experiencing homelessness face a real barrier in trying to find solutions to their situation. Through Get Digital, we are opening up an entire world of opportunity. Using their newly-acquired skills, people can begin accessing the online world and the opportunities it brings. With so many aspects of our lives accessed through digital channels, digital inclusion is essential to empower people to bring about change in their own lives.”

Lorraine McGrath, chief executive of both charities, added: “The Get Digital campaign is a great new initiative that we are sure will change the status quo for those affected by homelessness. It will provide users with digital skills that most of us take for granted and will encourage them to feel comfortable in the digital age.”

Get Digital is working with SCVO’s One Digital programme and the Mhor Collective to develop and deliver training for staff to become ‘digital champions’.

Trainer and researcher, Irene Warner Mackintosh, said: “It’s fantastic to be working with Streetwork on this exciting project that’s helping to address the challenges of digital exclusion. To have this brilliant team of volunteers and staff, who are already working so closely with folk experiencing homelessness, also helping with everyday essential digital skills will hopefully make a huge difference. Everyone should be able to access the opportunities of being online.”

In the coming months, over 250 staff members at Streetwork and Simon Community Scotland will be trained as ‘digital champions’, following which they will begin providing support to people experiencing homelessness in learning digital skills and engaging with the digital world.

The Get Digital tools, training and support will then be shared with a range of homelessness service providers across Scotland with the aim of creating a nationally-recognised programme

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