To service provider management: “We’re helping stop digital exclusion, are you?”
Research & Campaigns Team
Challenging digital exclusion. Key service sector managements might not think it adds much to productivity but no firm or provider suffers a reputation for caring. Their teams deal everyday with customers like our client John*.
When he first came to see us ill-health had forced John to leave his job as a gardener. He had claimed universal credit but his payment wasn’t enough to cover rent and other essentials. It was soon clear he would have to leave his home. With private rents out of reach, that meant asking for help to find accommodation he could afford.
And that meant John had to get his name on to the local housing register.
Apply online or….don’t
Perhaps understandably in 2023, most application forms are online and many Citizens Advice clients struggle. Some haven’t learnt to use computers at school or worked in a modern office. Others have no access to the internet or the necessary. Others again don’t have the confidence to complete an online form that could change their lives.
John had a mobile phone but no computer or printer. He first worked with our digital exclusion adviser to understand online systems.
Then began a series of support sessions with lessons for all concerned in this stage of John’s life. Our colleague helped him complete the housing register application form; to do this successfully you need a full size screen.
She also helped him access his online Universal Credit and bank accounts to download information and provide the necessary supporting documents.
Later, in another appointment following the theft of John’s mobile, she helped set up of a new phone, and re-establish access to online accounts and emails.
What’s important is to realise that some people struggle with seemingly simple online tasks and find themselves digitally excluded from many areas of every day life.
Without a proper understanding of IT, a computer, a good internet connection and ability to pay for more than a basic ‘pay as you go’ phone contract things can get difficult.
By providing support through online processes, our digital exclusion adviser helps ease the stress of digital exclusion caused by online processes.
Our challenge to local councils, utility companies, rail companies, government departments and online retailers is to provide and promote alternative routes to essential services and fair prices.
Recently we supported Surrey Libraries for their Digital Skills Sessions; there are regular sessions at Epsom, Ewell libraries. We backed Epsom & Ewell Borough Council for keeping cash payment at its main carparks alongside a parking app. We called on Rail Delivery Group to withdraw its threat to close station ticket offices which would make life harder for many passengers.
* Name changed