“Neighbours on Line” was a joint initiative designed and led by Broadway United Reformed Church and supported by Opportunity Vale of Evesham between January and July 2014.
Its objective was to raise digital competence amongst older people to help address loneliness and exclusion, and to support the reduction of the cost to Wychavon District Council of delivering services.
Research shows that the problems of loneliness and lack of digital skills still exists. It is proposed to help even more people by continuing the initiative for another year and Broadway United Reformed Church has agreed to partially support the initiative.
In Spring 2013 we identified that loneliness and isolation were a significant problem. Here in Broadway, our surrounding area, in Worcestershire, and the UK.
We also identified that in future Worcester County Council and other Government organisations have to use more cost effective methods to deliver services. This includes using the internet more for service delivery to rural areas including Broadway.
Broadway URC carefully researched local need and local provision. We designed an innovative, new approach to help address loneliness by creating an environment that is friendly, for groups of learners, who can learn at their own speed, to build digital skills and confidence to use the internet.
It has proven very effective. To date there have been 143 attendances by 40 different local people aged over 65, at 17 sessions that each last 2 hours, supported by 44 attendances by local volunteer helper/coaches and 16 attendances by the Outreach Development Worker/Project Manager. Attendees have now used the internet, email and Skype. Some have even acquired their own computers and had internet installed in their homes.
Being confident to use the internet and to have access to it are therefore valuable ways to fight loneliness, reduce the feeling of exclusion, and enable cost effective access to and delivery of services.