Response to Digital Participation and Social Justice Report
The recent publication on Digital Participation and Social Justice in Scotland, from Carnegie UK, threw up some interesting food for thought.
In this ‘Information Age’ it can be easy to forget that around one in five Scottish households do not have access to the internet. This number rises in the most deprived neighbourhoods.
Working in GP practices that serve the largest proportion of individuals from postcodes in the most deprived 15% of the population means that the Links Worker Programme can reach those individuals who are more likely to be digitally excluded, as well as affected by other features of inequality.
This is important given that the Carnegie research found particular associations between internet access and an ‘active lifestyle’, ‘better mental health and wellbeing’ and ‘being socially connected’.
A priority identified by the report is that “Policy and practice need to identify the points of interaction that citizens have with a wide variety of public and charitable services and find the right mechanisms to support the development of digital skills at these points of interaction.”
The Links Worker Programme is well placed to increase capacity for digital participation and there are many examples of Community Links Practitioners supporting individuals to access computing classes as well as directly supporting people to use web based resources to engage with services.
One programme participant benefitted through the CLP teaching them how to use Skype so that they could keep in touch with family overseas, which played a part in combatting the loneliness that the individual was experiencing.
Of course a fundamental driver of the programme is linking individuals with sources of support in their communities and beyond. While not directly impacting digital exclusion, this would be expected to somewhat mitigate the impact of this for individuals.
Perhaps though there is more that could be achieved with a specific view to supporting the development of digital skills and access to technology for those with whom the programme works. This is an area that the programme would be keen to work with others in exploring further.