The Discover: Boosting Digital Inclusion in Stoke-on-Trent project, led by Staffordshire University in partnership with VAST and 10 other organisations, is funded by the Government’s Community Renewal Fund.
The project will raise the bar of digital inclusivity to ensure that the most digitally excluded members of the city are engaged and supported and have the means and confidence to use digital equipment and access services online.
It builds on recent research by Stoke-on-Trent’s Collaborative Network which identified that digital exclusion affects different people in different ways. Using national data and local knowledge, the project has identified three priority groups; young people, parents, and older people. Discover will identify their specific needs to provide tailored support—including access to equipment and connectivity, digital skills, and online safety— matching people with the programmes best suited to them.
Nicola Gratton, Associate Professor of Community and Civic Engagement at Staffordshire University said: “We have been ambitious in our plans for Discover and have built a programme of digital support from the ground up. We are working with a broad range of partners who have the skills and networks that will enable us to reach out to people most digitally excluded in our city and provide targeted skills and support.
“Our programme of peer research will allow us to be really responsive to the needs of those most affected by issues of digital exclusion, by involving them in planning throughout the programme. “
Lisa Healings, Chief Executive of VAST added: “The COVID pandemic has massively accelerated the move to an online world. Practically everything people need is now accessed online, from school work to medical help and from shopping to claiming benefits, without digital access people can easily become marginalised and excluded.
"Training and support will be delivered in a number of ways including groups sessions, one-to-one, face-to-face, and online. By using a flexible approach, Discover partners will work together to meet the needs of each individual at each stage of their digital journey.
“We want to work together to ensure that no one is left behind and everyone has fair access to the services they need.”
Residents of Stoke-on-Trent can view and apply to join the training programmes on offer by visiting the VAST website. Once they have decided which training courses they would like to try, they can contact the training provider who will support them to apply for a grant for any equipment they need.
People interested in finding out more about the Peer Researcher and Digital Champion volunteer roles can register to attend an information event on 18 January 2022 at The Dudson Centre, Hanley or call 01782 683030.
To find out more about Discover, email T.Houghton@staffs.ac.uk.
Partners in the Discover project are:
- Staffordshire University
- Beth Johnson Foundation
- The Community Foundation for Staffordshire
- Stoke-on-Trent College
- YMCA North Staffordshire
- Caudwell Children
- Stoke North Big Local
- The Dove Service
- Keele University