LLEP digital poverty grants awarded

Date posted: February 4, 2022
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7 LLEP digital projects

Seven projects will benefit from £300,000 of digital poverty grants awarded by the Leicester and Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).

Grants worth £300,000 will help address digital poverty in the area with schemes including a project to recycle unwanted IT equipment for people who would otherwise be excluded.

Digital poverty is the term used to describe challenges faced by people when trying to access online services, such as applying for a job, making an appointment, doing homework or keeping in touch with family and friends.

This may be due to a lack of devices, connectivity, or basic skills.

The shift to online during the Pandemic has demonstrated the importance in everyday life of being able to use a smartphone or computer to access work and services.

The LLEP grant funding supports a range of innovative projects across the city and county, including recycling devices, laptop lending, skills support and digital buddies who can provide one-to-one help.

Kevin Harris, Chair of the LLEP Board of Directors, said:

“The pandemic has brought into focus how challenging it can be in today’s society to access services, grow skills, and apply for jobs without access to digital technology.

“By investing in accessible digital hubs, supporting training and increasing availability of equipment, the LLEP is working towards its goal of creating a region which is more productive, innovative and inclusive.”

The Leicester and Leicestershire Economic Growth Strategy 2021-30, launched by the LLEP in December, sets a vision for harnessing local strengths, innovation and skills.

The document’s vision is to create a resilient and adaptive workforce that continues work completed over the last decade to increase economic participation and prosperity for residents.

Reaching People brings together frontline voluntary and community organisations in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

It was awarded £87,941 to establish a Leicester-based community business that will promote better use of pre-owned IT equipment.

The Refurb, Reuse, Include project will acquire and format obsolete IT equipment from local businesses, before gifting it to local charitable groups for use by people who would otherwise be digitally excluded.

Ruth Rigby, CEO of Reaching People, said:

“With this funding, and the support of local businesses, we’ll provide safe, local recycling of laptops, tablets and other equipment to support people who struggle with the cost of digital equipment to get online.”

Stewart Smith, the LLEP’s Head of Employment and Skills, said:

“The seven projects demonstrate an imaginative and exciting response to the challenge of digital poverty and will sustainably increase both accessibility and skills.”

All seven projects are due to start in early 2022.

Here are the other projects that have been awarded funds:

3 Digital Cs (WEA)

Employment prospects for disadvantaged adults will be improved through community-based education workshops and tailored 1-1 support. This will develop digital confidence, creativity and competence among low-income workers to support career progression. Volunteer ‘digital buddies’ will be available for 1-1 help and operate at various locations in the city and county.

Highfields Digital Hub (Highfields Community Association)

Establishing a Digital Hub at Highfields Centre will provide free digital access and training to a large and diverse population in Highfields and Greater Highfields. The project will address digital poverty issues affecting young people, adults, older people, those on low incomes and the unemployed.

Leicester Connected (Leicester City Council)

The Council will extend and expand the device loan and skills development scheme, Leicester Connected, which currently runs from several city libraries.

Essential Digital Skills (Acorn Training Ltd)

Essential Digital Skills support will be provided to a minimum of 75 individuals across North West Leicestershire and Charnwood by employing a dedicated team and access to technology to break down critical barriers to engagement and participation. The project will establish two new digital hubs in Coalville and Loughborough.

Breward’s Hub – Student Assisted Technology Coaching (Homefield College)

Homefield College students will provide the elderly, jobseekers and disadvantaged people within the Mountsorrel area access to the internet, devices and technological support on a weekly basis. This project will be based at the college’s coffee shop, Breward’s, an enterprise run by students who are autistic and/or have learning & communication disabilities. It will help break down technological barriers in the local community. Students acting as technology coaches will develop their social, communication and employability skills in the process.

Christ Church Community Hub (Christ Church PCC)

The Christ Church Community Hub, in Thurnby Lodge, will provide free-to-use community access wi-fi. This will include a weekly session where anyone can use either tablets or Chromebooks to access the free wi-fi and receive regular instruction. Support will be available for the most vulnerable either through age-related issues or through low incomes to have access to the Internet as council services and benefits go online.

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