Increased funding helps more people connect

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Posted on Thursday August 4th, 2022

A PROJECT that helps people connect is being rolled out in Leicester thanks to increased funding.

The Leicester Connected initiative – which is run by Leicester City Council – has been awarded a £44,000 grant to tackle digital poverty by the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).

This means that more people across the city will be able to benefit from a free loan of a laptop or tablet, as well as free digital skills training and assistance using their device.

Leicester Connected started as a pilot project last year and has so far loaned 73 digital devices to people through Belgrave, Highfields and St Barnabas libraries and through the Adult Education College. Its objective is to help people improve their digital skills, in particular those who are vulnerable, unemployed and/or in temporary housing.

Now, the program will see 160 digital devices available for loan across all 16 libraries across the city. It will also be supported by the adult education department of the municipality.

Loans generally last about three months, or the duration of an adult education course, if the borrower is enrolled in a course with the municipal adult education department. The equipment can also be delivered to people confined to their homes.

Cllr Danny Myers, the city’s deputy mayor for jobs and skills, said: ‘We know the pandemic has dramatically changed the way people access services and that around a third of our households in the city have difficulties with digital skills and access. This may be because people lack the confidence or skills to use technology, lack sufficient connectivity, or lack access to suitable devices. This means they may miss opportunities to socialize, learn, shop and work online.

“As the cost of living crisis hits, it’s even more important that we help people connect, so they can access helpful services and support.

“Internet access is an essential skill and an important part of everyday life these days, but we know that many of our students at the College of Adult Education find it difficult to participate online if they don’t have no device. Sometimes they may use a mobile phone or share a device with other family members, which is not ideal. That’s why it’s great news that we can now expand this program and help more people develop their digital skills. »

The additional funding from LLEP means Leicester Connected can now operate until March 2023.

Verity Hancock, Continuing Education Representative on the LLEP Board and Principal and CEO of Leicester College, said: “Thousands of people join our education institutions and training organizations every year.

“We provide people with the skills they need to succeed, but we also need to consider how they access the devices needed for education and work.

“Inclusion is a central aim of LLEP’s economic growth strategy and investing in projects such as Leicester Connected helps residents access the opportunities, skills and career progression needed to tackle economic disadvantage. .”

Library members – including adult education students and others referred to the program because they are not online – can request to borrow a device. Applicants must be over the age of 18 and not have access to their own digital device, priority being given to those most in need.

Anyone borrowing a device receives personalized coaching to ensure they can use it, with phone or email support and access to free basic digital skills training through the Education Service. adults.

Libraries were chosen as the ideal access point for the program, as they are often the first port of call for city dwellers who do not have access to computers and the Internet at home. In addition to free computer and wifi access, libraries also offer wifi printing facilities for a small fee, and beginner courses to help patrons feel confident going online.

To find out more about the scheme, go to www.leicester.gov.uk/libraries and click on the ‘computers, internet and wifi’ button.

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