Action Foundation is kicking off a new 12-month digital inclusion project that will see refugees and asylum seekers in the North East being given tablet computers and the training needed to access a wealth of empowering digital services.

The project aims to get over 400 people through the programme, with 50 people into employment and 160 people into further learning. The idea is to reach people who are typically excluded from these kinds of opportunities.

Significant funding is coming from the North of Tyne Combined Authority, complemented by other sources, including some of the money raised with Action Foundation’s Covid-19 Crisis Support Campaign.

The project is also being supported by Lloyds Bank Foundation and We Are Digital to provide tablet computers and training to enable Appeal Rights Exhausted Asylum Seekers or those living outside the North of Tyne Area to get online.

Financial exclusion

Action Foundation’s Jes Balmer is leading the innovative project and told us: “Refugees and Asylum Seekers are on little to no income, and their financial exclusion typically means that if they have access to digital equipment at all it’s likely to be shared and something like a low spec smart phone with a cracked screen. Imagine trying to access Action Language lessons, contact family, register for services or apply for jobs with this kind of inadequate device. It puts already excluded people at a huge disadvantage.”

“The digital inclusion project will supply people with a brand-new tablet and data sim card, with data allocated according to personal circumstances. We’ll tailor the offering as much as we can within the budget.”

Remote learning

Jes said the project aims “to provide beneficiaries with foundational understanding and skills – letting people know what the internet can be used for, how broad it is and how useful and how to use it safely. From getting news updates, watching tv shows, making video calls, filling out job applications, contacting the council and paying utilities – the internet is relevant in so many elements of our lives.”

Jes added: “Lockdown and social distancing has meant we’ve had to complement the traditional approach of getting people in a room, giving them a tablet and interacting face to face with a remote learning approach.”

It’s a priority to ensure people can get online, safely and securely. In the current pandemic it’s difficult to get in the classroom, so beneficiaries will be encouraged to do self-learning using free educational resources like The Good Things Foundation Learn My Way website.

Jes said: “Action Foundation has registered as one of over 5,000 grassroots centres working to tackle digital and social exclusion by providing people with the skills and confidence they need to access digital technology – so we’ll be able to support beneficiaries to access the learning relevant to their needs and aspirations. The content is bitesize and interactive which is incredibly useful for our clients who often have a basic level of English.”

Employment opportunities

Clients who have the right to work in the UK will be offered a 1-2-1 mentoring programme – which will help people identify any barriers they may be facing accessing education and training opportunities or getting into employment and support them formulate their aspirations and create a plan. That could be anything from developing their CV, finding relevant volunteering opportunities that will get them closer to a career, accessing funding for accredited training courses or support with filling out job applications.

Jes says employment and training support are the areas that our clients consistently engage with. “If you put that together with the digital inclusion – giving people a tablet, which is beyond the means of most of our clients, will really bring people into the project.”

Volunteers needed!

The next step of the project will be delivering the service within Action Foundation as soon as possible, so Jes is looking for computer confident volunteers, including those with professional skills and ideally people who speak languages that fit with our client group:

• Tigrinya
• Kurdish Sorani
• Amharic
• Spanish
• Turkish

If you are interested please email: [email protected]

Partners needed!

Action Foundation would also like to hear from Delivery Partners – organisations within the North of Tyne region who work with refugees and asylum seekers – who can help us deliver this training.

If you are interested please click here for more information…