Glossop-based charity PCrefurb has joined forces with the local NHS to train up a network of Digital Champion volunteers to help digitally excluded people access the online world.
PCrefurb was born out of an idea discussed over a coffee in 2018 with the concept to engage the IT skills of those in the community who need help overcoming various difficulties and challenges.
The idea was to recruit them as volunteers to obtain and refurbish unwanted IT equipment and give them to those in need.
Since that first chat over coffee, the charity has gone from strength to strength.
Volunteers meet to work and socialise together at a weekly workshop (pre-Covid), and refurbished equipment has been donated far and wide, including to a special needs school, domestic abuse charity and a children’s group in India.
During the first lockdown PCrefurb donated 128 tablets to Tameside Hospital, Blythe House and Willow Wood Hospices and local care homes, in order to help residents keep in touch with family and friends.
In March, it secured five years funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, enabling them to continue to employ a project manager and also part-time employ a volunteer. Now they are proud to be partnering with the NHS and other organisations on the pioneering ‘Digital Wellbeing’ Project across Tameside and Glossop.
PCrefurb chairman, and current Mayor of High Peak, Cllr Ed Kelly said: “Our mission with the Digital Wellbeing Project is to try and bridge the ‘digital divide’.
“There are lots of people out there who are isolated and who struggle with day-to-day tasks, especially as a result of coronavirus, because they don’t have access to the online world.”
Reliance on technology has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic with many activities moving online and people relying on using IT to keep in touch with loved ones.
Project co-ordinator Claire Webber explained: “Those who are not engaging effectively with the digital world are at risk of being left behind. Technological change means digital skills are increasingly important for connecting with others, accessing information and services and meeting the changing demands of the workplace and economy.
“This is leading to a ‘digital divide’ between those who have access to information and communication technology and those who do not.
“A lack of digital skills and access can have a negative impact on a person’s life, causing poorer health outcomes and a lower life expectancy, increased loneliness and social isolation, less access to jobs and education. It can mean paying more for essentials, an increased risk of falling into poverty and a lack of a voice in the modern world.
“Whilst we wouldn’t want to stop all the wonderful technological advancements that undoubtedly make life much easier, healthier, more economical and enjoyable for the majority of us, we need to remember that not everyone is going as fast as we are…..and that’s why we need Digital Champions!”
At the heart of the Digital Wellbeing project is the desperate need for tablets, smart phones and laptops, and PCrefurb hope that people who have received new tech for Christmas will consider giving their now unwanted items to their ‘Donate A Device’ campaign.
The demand to assist those digitally excluded is so great that PCrefurb has issued a plea to the public not only for more donations of their unwanted equipment, but also for more volunteers.
Cllr Kelly explained: “We are looking to train up more Digital Champions to work with vulnerable individuals who need help with their digital skills. You don’t need to be a technical expert, as just showing someone how to send an email is life changing.
“We have clients with a range of needs, such as wanting help applying for jobs, learning how to book an appointment with their GP or doing their food shopping. We even have two people in their 90s who want to learn how to use Facebook and Zoom.”
Claire recently delivered a tablet to a resident at Cornmill House in Glossop.
Manager Chris Halpin said: “This is really going to make a difference to our resident, as his support group moved online and he was unable to join in. Also, having an email address will mean that he can do so much more.”
For more information on how to donate a device and their Digital Wellbeing Project, visit pcrefurb.org.uk, email: email@example.com or contact the project coordinator Claire Webber on 07547 681469.
Digital Wellbeing Project co-ordinator Claire Webber handing over a tablet to Chris Halpin, the manager of Cornmill House in Glossop.