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From job applications, education and healthcare services, to council tax and housing benefits – we are living in an increasingly digital world where having access to the internet is essential for survival.
However, the more technology advances, the more people we leave behind and this is something we need to address, and urgently.
In this blog, we speak to Digital Health Champion, Rosanna Jones, about the work she does to tackle digital exclusion and how local authorities can get involved.
Please could you provide some insight into your role as a digital health champion?
“My role is to support access to and roll out of digital equipment to vulnerable individuals in Ealing. I work as part of an NHS charities project and support the coordination, development and promotion of the project within the trust,” Rosanna tells us.
“Essentially, I help ensure that individuals can access essential resources such as housing benefits, GP appointments and other crucial services.”
“Many local councils have transitioned their application processes for various benefits online which brings both benefits and challenges,” she explains.
“The key issue is that the same individuals who need to apply for housing benefits often face digital accessibility barriers.”
Could you elaborate on these accessibility barriers?
“The main challenge is that there’s a significant overlap between those who need housing benefits and those who lack digital access.
“Many people in this situation rely on alternative means, such as visiting their local libraries to use computers. This reliance on physical locations can disrupt their daily lives, as they don’t have the convenience of accessing these services at their fingertips, like the majority of us do.”
How does your role help address these challenges?
“My job as a digital health champion is instrumental in bridging this gap. I work to empower people by providing them with the necessary digital skills and knowledge to access online resources.”
What are local authorities be doing to improve digital inclusion?
“So my project is funded partly by Ealing Council who help by donating devices, such as tablets and laptops, which obviously then go to the people who need them.
“We’re also helping in one of their initiatives called ‘Re-Klaim’ which rolled out a scheme where if you meet a certain criteria then you can apply for a free laptop. Our project is helping deliver that scheme to people with long-term health conditions.
“So we’re using our links in the community to help reach demographics that the council haven’t necessarily been able to get in contact with.
“It’s a collaborative effort that’s really picking up momentum – our specific project has already reached over 150 people in the last year and a half.”
Is your local authority looking to improve its digital inclusion efforts? Here are a few recommendations from the LGA:
- Donate old laptops and devices
- Identify areas where digital inclusion is a problem
- Embed digital inclusion throughout other council strategies
- Lead development of digital inclusion strategy where there is not already one in place
- Collaborate and maintain communications with relevant healthcare partners (e.g. digital health champions!).
For further information, check out the full document here or visit Digital Poverty Alliance for useful insight and resources.
For job opportunities in the public sector, get in touch with the team at Imperium Resourcing team on 0203 929 4000 today.