A network of local organisations brought together during the pandemic is working together to offer coordinated support for local people with their digital needs and enquiries.
The ‘Torbay Digital Inclusion Network’ consists of many local organisations from the local statutory, voluntary and business sector, including Torbay Council, the local NHS and voluntary, community and charity groups.
Its inception builds on a survey of local people conducted last year by Network members, which revealed that although most people in the Bay had access to an internet-enabled device, some found digital services difficult to use or needed more help to use them.
Network Lead and Torbay Public Health Consultant Bruce Bell said:
“The pandemic meant local services such as health, social care, wellbeing or community support services had to adapt, with many introducing a ‘digital’ way for people to use their service. Local people have also had to adapt to this new way of living their lives, with many experiencing tools like online banking and shopping or connecting with family and friends digitally using the internet for the first time.”
“A lack of digital skills and access can have a huge negative impact on a person’s life. It is a key social determinant of health. It can mean paying more for essentials, financial exclusion, an increased risk of experiencing poverty. It also means losing a voice and visibility in society.”
“The Torbay Digital Inclusion Network brought together local organisations who support these people on a daily basis with a commitment to working together to help those groups of people more likely to be ‘digitally excluded’.”
To help achieve this, the Network have created a ‘Digital Offer’ for people where opportunities for Digital support for members of the public are shared by Network members.
This includes general digital support offered by organisations such as the Torbay Community Development Trust led Community Helpline and Torbay Together website, Torbay Libraries and Torbay Carers Services, and specific support such as technical support by ‘Netfriends’ or digital healthcare access support by Digital Health Devon or Eat That Frog.
All Network members, which also include Brixham YES and Age UK Torbay, have agreed to share resources and learning with each other and also identify and connect people into the network in order to help enable them to get online, stay online and improve online.
“By using the multiple and existing connections and a shared endeavour that best uses the skills, experiences, knowledge, and capacity of every network partner we really hope we can reach those most vulnerable to digital exclusion and offer them an entire network of support through our members’ coordinated response.” added Mr Bell, “I’d like to thank all our Network members for their ongoing efforts in tackling the ‘Digital Divide’ in Torbay and really helping to make a difference in a person’s life.”
Digital support referrals can be made to the Torbay Community Helpline by calling 01803 446 022 from 10am until 6pm Monday to Friday and on Saturdays only from 9:30am to 12:30pm or online via www.bit.ly/torbayhelpline.
If you are an organisation wishing to join the Torbay Digital Inclusion Network, please email Simon.Culley@engagingcommunitiessouthwest.org.uk.
For more information on the Torbay Digital Inclusion Network please click here.