Up to 50 Solihull residents are logging on to develop their computer skills thanks to a £70,000 initiative offering free IT equipment and training.
Residents will be offered a free computer and internet access in their homes, plus training and support from a computer club or ‘buddy’ as part of the Learning and Skills Council-funded ‘Access IT’ scheme.
The new programme is aimed at anyone aged 18 to 65 whose access to IT has been limited by low household income or disability and is managed in partnership between Solihull voluntary organisation consortium SUSTAiN and ReCOM, a local charity that provides refurbished computers and training.
ReCOM trainer Rebecca Hunt, who leads a weekly computer club at Smith’s Wood Sports College, said: “For most people, the first thing they want to learn is how to use email to keep in touch with family or friends or the internet for things like shopping and banking.
“Most are complete beginners who have never turned a computer on before so that lack of confidence is a big barrier.”
SUSTAiN marketing manager Jayne Scarman said: “Access IT provides the equipment, skills and knowledge that can enhance employment opportunities, increase independence and enable people to enjoy the full social and practical benefits afforded by the internet.”
Doreen Jobson says the scheme has helped her keep up with the lives of her 13 grandchildren.
“The youngest is nine and the oldest 30 so it’s quite hard to keep up with them all,” says the 76-year-old, of Smith’s Wood. “One of my grandchildren has just started at university so I’ve learned how to log on to Facebook to find out what she’s been up to.”
Rooqia Begum, equality and diversity manager for West Midlands Learning and Skills Council, says: “Many people don’t have the opportunity to develop new skills because they don’t have access to learning.
“This project is an excellent example of how partnerships between community organisations can make a real difference to the ability of people who need support to lead independent lives.”