Digital device scheme reduces social isolation among vulnerable people in Tayside

Posted: 24th June 2021

Vulnerable people experiencing social isolation in Tayside are getting connected to loved ones, community groups and vital services thanks to a nationwide digital initiative.

Connecting Scotland is a Scottish Government scheme, managed by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, which aims to get every citizen in the country online.

Set up in response to the pandemic, the programme has enabled local charity Hillcrest Futures to hand out iPads and MiFi devices to 25 older and/or disabled people throughout Angus, Dundee and Perth and Kinross.

Hillcrest Futures’ managing director, Joy Dunlop explains: “Since the start of the virus outbreak many of us have relied heavily on technology as a means to keep in touch with loved ones, for entertainment and to access up-to-date information. The pandemic has truly amplified the digital divide among society, with many feeling left behind.

“Schemes like Connecting Scotland play a vital role in helping to promote social inclusion and we are extremely grateful for the funding we have received. Being online is an essential lifeline in the 21st century and Hillcrest Futures is fully committed to helping people become digitally included.”

The devices were distributed to people receiving support from Hillcrest Futures’ home care and housing with care services.

Helen Fletcher, who manages Hillcrest Futures’ housing with care services, commented: “There are various causes of digital barriers among people including affordability, user capability and lack of interest. Our staff engaged with the people we support to discuss the benefits of having access to the internet and those who were interested received a tablet. Staff have since been on hand to offer technical help along the way.

“The impact the tablets will have on people’s lives is already clear to see with many feeling more connected and part of their community. The subsequent effect on people’s mental health and wellbeing has also been extremely positive, with feelings of loneliness greatly reduced.”

Robert Fisher is a resident at Hillcrest Futures’ Magdalen Yard Road Housing with Care service. One receiving his iPad he commented: “This has been great for me as I am pretty isolated and get bored. I will now be able to download films and stay in touch with family and friends in the comfort of my own home.”

Investment in the Connecting Scotland programme has recently been increased to more than £48 million, resulting in a total of 60,000 households being helped by the end of 2021.

Photo from left: Alex Lowden, Robert Fisher with manager Helen Fletcher, Sheila Smith

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