IT workshops to encourage skills sharing thanks to coalfields funding

Founded in 2010, Libre Digital has worked with some of the most deprived and socially isolated people within Sheffield and has provided them with access to technology and information to improve their media literacy and encourage digital inclusion.

Thanks to a successful application for practical support  and funding to the value of £8,120 from the Coalfields Community Investment Programme, the organisation is launching 48 three-hour facilitated IT workshops.

The sessions, which are delivered by qualified professionals, will take place at Bentley Library and Stainforth Library, and will equip those attending with the skills and knowledge they need to better understand computer hardware and software, the internet, social media channels and different forms of technology.

Libre Digital, who’re providing this free community-based provision, will encourage participants to share skills and work collaboratively, so that they can learn how to manage technical issues in an inclusive and comfortable environment.

Fostering social inclusion, the community organisation will use this opportunity to tackle loneliness and the negative health and wellbeing impacts associated with lack of IT access and associated poverty by bringing people together to meet, learn and share.

Fiona Lawrence, the Deputy Manager at Stainforth 4 All, said: “The Stainforth Free Tech Project course is a great opportunity for local people to find out how to use a phone, tablet or computer in a friendly, community environment.”

Audrey Thompson, one of the Directors at Bentley Library, said: “Bentley Area Community Library is a hub of activity, providing social, support and educational opportunities for Greater Bentley area and beyond. We are excited about this project as we have many technology needs.

Libre Digital will help us to improve our skills, especially for our social history project, as well as essential form filling and using smart phones. Libre Digital will complement the IT sessions with W.E.A and the informal help our volunteers provide already.”

Libre’s Digital Founder, Jay Baker, added: “At Libre Digital we have set the objective to connect, communicate and change. We believe that everyone should have access to digital technology and to the internet and that this should be a basic human right.

“Technology is a great way to tackle social isolation, while also teaching people new skills. What many of us take for granted is out of reach for residents in our community, but thanks to the funding and practical support from the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, we know that 40 further people will be given the help that they need.”

Development Manager (England) for the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Lynn Utting, commented: “We must remember that IT literacy and access to digital technologies isn’t just about communicating with friends and family, it is also a fundamental necessity when it comes to apply for jobs online.

“By not giving everyone equal access, we are creating a culture whereby some people are disadvantaged and will not have the opportunity to change their lives for the better. We are pleased that our funding and practical support will go some way to addressing that balance.”

As Libre Digital has become a member of Coalfield Community Investment Programme it will continue to be supported by the Trust and will receive bespoke practical support that includes everything from access to resources and services such as help with third-party funding applications and bid-writing, to tips on effective promotion and marketing.

The Coalfields Community Investment Programme supports organisations and programmes of activity that meet with three key criteria; to address skills, employment or health and wellbeing through funding support and a free practical support service.

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