During the first lockdown, we noticed that many of the clients who had been regulars in our recovery hubs were not attending online support groups. A client survey showed that many of them did not have the skills, equipment or confidence to engage online. In short, we found that a proportion of our mainly older male client base were digitally excluded.
Benefits of digital inclusion
Digital inclusion allows people to stay connected to social and support networks. While we have learned this lesson during the lockdown, it applies to a ‘hard to reach’ group of people who are always isolated. This includes single parents, carers, people experiencing anxiety and PTSD, those who live in remote areas, and those who cannot afford transport.
With funding from Hastings Direct, we bought some tablets and tasked one of our ESRA Connectors to set them up and to show people how to use them. This is the process that we followed:
This is by far the most important stage. It is also the most time-consuming. Our ESRA Connector identifies potential candidates to receive a tablet. We believe that motivation to engage online is essential, and the reason for doing so must come from the client. So far, clients have wanted to be able to use Zoom for online support groups, both in-house at ESRA and outside in the community with fellowship meetings.
Our ESRA Connector sets up the tablet for each individual client. We use Amazon Fire tablets which we are cheaper than most competing products. We configure them so that clients do not have to have an Amazon account to use it. The relevant apps are downloaded and are ready to use by the time the client receives it.
Training and handover
This is always done in person. The ESRA Connector shows the client exactly how to use the app(s) for the specific purposes that have already been identified by the client. The client often has a lack of skill and confidence, and it is essential that the training is focused on the purpose and only covers what they need to know.
The client is asked to agree to the following:
The Amazon Fire tablet allocated to you remains the property of ESRA. ESRA will not be responsible for any activities, statements, purchases or other interactions conducted on the table while it is allocated to you.
Clients who have received tablets are free to discuss any problems or support requirements with the ESRA connector in the recovery hub. We believe that having regular access to help is essential for usage retention. Support is made easier by the fact that all the tablets that we distribute are identical.
This approach is labour intensive and not easily scalable. The idea is that clients who become proficient will be able to identify other suitable candidates and will be able to support them in receiving and using their own tablet.
We feel that the benefits outweigh any risks associated with this project. We are not concerned about people selling the tablets, or using them for inappropriate purposes. This is the responsibility of each recipient.