In the digital club - connecting vulnerable families

It is alarmingly easy for those of us working with technology to forget that there is a world out there for whom clouds are in the sky.

Article from LocalGov online

(23rd September 2015)

The fact is, outside of our rarefied technological atmosphere, in the UK around 11% of the adults have still never been online and this increases to 61% for those over 75 years old – that’s nearly nine million adults in the UK who have never been online. They and their families – often the most vulnerable households – are in danger of missing out, socially, educationally and financially.

According to the UK Online Centres: UK Jobs and the Internet Report, more than 70% of UK employers are unlikely to offer an interview to a candidate who doesn’t have basic computer or internet skills. Being online also opens up new opportunities to search and apply for work and better prices. Offline households miss out on estimated savings of £560 per year from shopping and paying bills online.

This means that vulnerable families are being made even more vulnerable by not being online. It’s vital that everyone, without exception, begins their digital journey rather than miss out on education, job opportunities and access to government and health services all available online.

Last year, the Glasgow Housing Association partnered with the Scottish Government and BT to give affordable Wi-Fi access to each of 138 homes in a single block. Residents were offered a new tablet with connection to high speed Wi-Fi access points located throughout the building, which linked back into the main BT network via a single fibre cable.

Less than half of tenants previously had internet access at home, and the results were very encouraging. Three in five tenants searched for a job online – for more than half, this was the first time they had ever done so – and three quarters of them said they saved money.

And, BT is building on this. Culture minister Ed Vaizey said, on a visit to Nunhead Library, as it announced its inclusion in a 100 centre strong new BT and Barclays initiative to bring free Wi-Fi and hands-on digital support across the UK.

He said: 'As more services become available online then increasingly libraries and other community spaces will be the place to go for people who don’t have the access or the confidence to use digital services.

'The presence of a member of staff or volunteers to help people navigate this digital space is invaluable and is one of the key things that libraries and other community spaces involved in this project have over other places that also offer Wi-Fi.'

BT and Barclays have both committed to support the implementation of the government’s Digital Inclusion strategy, which aims to reduce the number of people offline in the UK by 25% by 2016.

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Former Member 5 Years Ago
Whilst I totally support the approach of getting people connected, the comment, "It’s vital that everyone, without exception, begins their digital journey" overstates the case. It took my two sons (in their 20s) and I 2 months to help my 95-year old father to correctly tune his television. He is an intelligent man, who manages household finances well, but i fear for thge World Wide Web if he were to try and access it! I'm also far from sure that my sanity would survive.
Former Member 5 Years Ago
Hi Philippa, Is there any data on older vulnerable people who access web information via a relative or friend? Talking to councils about needs reviews and financial assessment reviews its clear a lot of contact via email etc is done via relatives who are supporting the vulnerable older person. Cheers Jerry
Philippa Lynch 5 Years ago in reply to Former Member .
Hi Jerry The straight answer is 'I don't know' - but I will look into it. And if anyone else does know of any data on this please post up a link. A quick search suggests that there is a lot going on in this area - e.g Age UK (, and BT ( If I find any data I will post a link up here. Best wishes Philippa
Philippa Lynch 5 Years ago in reply to Philippa Lynch .
No specific data sources as yet, but some useful links to explore? - - - - - - - - - -
Former Member 5 Years ago in reply to Philippa Lynch .
Thanks Philippa. Primary focus seems to be on individuals accessing themselves. Nothing as yet on assisted use - maybe there's a gap here in research - an opportunity? Assisted use has the added benefit of being more social than using on-line resources alone - despite social media :) Cheers Jerry