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Digital Inclusion During COVID-19

Our digital inclusion work supporting people with HIV, hepatitis C and sexual health in the time of COVID-19.

Across Scotland, we help people who need support with HIV, hepatitis C, and sexual health.

Our work reaches, engages, and meets the needs of hard to reach communities, while seeking to find new, effective and creative ways of making services accessible.

Some of the ways we have innovated to help at-risk communities overcome barriers to services during COVID-19 is by providing support with digital inclusion. That’s because we know digital inclusion is everyone’s job and enables the people we support to actively and equitably participate in digital life.

What does digital inclusion mean:

Digital inclusion simply means people having the skills to navigate the world online. According to Connecting Scotland:

“Being online is an essential lifeline. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the internet is keeping us connected to friends and family, informed and entertained, and able to learn, work, shop, and access health information and other public services.

However, some people can’t access these benefits because they don’t have the confidence, kit, and connectivity at home. “

Why digital inclusion matters:

Carnegie Trust describes why digital inclusion matters:

“This matters as those who are excluded digitally are also far more likely to be disadvantaged according to many other social and economic measures. The digital divide exacerbates inequality.”

Digital exclusion can affect every part of someone’s health and wellbeing. From feeling isolated through being unable to communicate with loved ones, to being disconnected from the support services can provide during difficult times.

When it comes to HIV, hepatitis C, and sexual health, digital exclusion can mean people struggle to attend virtual medical appointments, access support remotely, or navigate social and financial life. Prior to COVID-19, essential services such as benefits became increasingly digitalised. That meant we were already supporting people to learn digital skills. While COVID-19 has now digitalised all services, the impact of digital exclusion was felt by vulnerable and marginalised people long before the pandemic.

How we’re helping people bridge the digital divide:

Through the Scottish Government COVID-19 Wellbeing fund and the National Lottery Community Fund, we have purchased and distributed devices and financial aid. This has complemented the support our key workers have provided helping people learn digital skills.

Devices: We have provided 24 laptops, 33 tablets, 4 phones, and 3 Wi-Fi dongles to people we support. In all cases, the people who received devices would not otherwise have had access to digital life. This has helped people stay connected as well as able to access support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I am very grateful for the computer as I had been home-schooling my daughter all year without one. It has made teaching and learning so much easier" - Dan*

Support: Through frontline services, like our HIV street support, we’ve helped people across Scotland learn digital skills through dedicated one to one support. This enables people who would otherwise be digitally excluded to learn essential digital skills, take care of their health, and participate in active citizenship.

"I have received a laptop which I will use to receive counselling organized by waverley care. With the present situation in my life. I was going through a breakdown but with the help of Waverley Care I will put some structure back into my life." - Jane*

Financial aid: We have provided 73 phone top-ups to people we support, enabling those experiencing financial distress to use the devices they have. Often people who have digital skills are digitally excluded through poverty, making top-ups a lifeline to the wider world.

“A Huge thank you to waverly care for the continuous support rendered to me through this covid19 pandemic. I am so grateful that now i am able to communicate with my family and friends on zoom, something that i couldn't do before. Thank you for electricity bill aswell. Words can not express how grateful I am. Thank you once again for your continuous support.” - Alex*

With thanks:

We're grateful to the Scottish Government COVID-19 Wellbeing fund and the National Lottery Community Fund, without whose support we would not be able to provide this essential support

Like all of our work, our digital inclusion work relies on us finding funding to cover some of the costs. While some of this funding comes from the Scottish Government and National Lottery Community Fund, we still rely on donations from the public to bridge the gap. Find out how you can support our work from our donations page.

*All names used in this article have been anonymised.

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