Published date: 04 June 2021

NHS Property Services volunteers help Hillside Clubhouse members master basic digital skills

Hillside Clubhouse is an Islington-based mental health rehabilitation project with a focus on mainstream employment, education and social inclusion.

The programme will match members of Hillside with volunteers from NHS Property Services (NHSPS) for a 1:1 digital buddy relationship spanning 3 x 1hr support sessions. Support will focus on basic digital skills to help members feel more confident and connected when it comes to using their smartphones and tablets.

Maddison Hucks, Corporate Responsibility Manager at NHS Property Services, says:

“We’re proud to be supporting Hillside with this initiative and having our colleagues share their skills to help isolated members of the community become more connected through technology. With the way the world has been the past year, having access to technology has become more important than ever. Not being able to access the services you need or speak to their friends or family can have a huge impact on your wellbeing and by teaching people how to do these things through their technology will make a world of difference.”

Kay Carter, Employment Support Team Manager at Hillside Clubhouse, says:

“Being digitally excluded can lead to anxiety, as clients feel that they are missing out on a number of things which others have access to. The support from NHSPS volunteers will mean members can learn how to navigate their smart phones and tablets. For some it might be the first time they can access their email and send emails from their phones.  For others, downloading and learning how to use apps like WhatsApp will help them to communicate with friends and family in their native countries for free (instead of having to buy phone cards).  This is very important as some of our clients do not have family or social networks in the UK.

Also, being able to use a smart device enable clients to sign into their benefit journals which for many is very important. The support also gives clients a chance to interact with volunteers from NHSPS, this interface helps to build their confidence.”

The sessions have started to be delivered online, but BIG Alliance is hopeful that volunteers and members can meet 1:1 in-person when the time allows.

The digital buddies programme is part of a wider effort by Hillside Clubhouse to tackle digital exclusion which includes:

  • Loaning laptops to clients

  • Securing funding for new laptops through the Cripplegate Foundation Catalyst Grants Programme

  • Purchasing top-up vouchers and data plans for those without broadband

  • Supporting clients with online applications, virtual interviews and volunteering online

  • Sending hard copies of course work and providing telephone support from tutors of Islington Adult Community Learning

The original article was published by The Big Alliance, and can be found here.