Hello readers, we’re excited to share our February blog post with you! We’re back with another ‘Meet The Team’ feature in which we catch up with Russell Payne, our Digital Engagement Officer based at Leicestershire County Council. We chatted with him about the importance of digital and his involvement with the project.
What is your role at Leicestershire County Council and with Moneywise Plus? What does it involve?
I’m the Digital Engagement Officer, which involves delivering the digital side of the Moneywise Plus project in Leicestershire county. I do Digital Taster sessions with clients and Digital One-To-Ones, as well as taking on Digital Champion volunteers to help out with delivery. I engage new clients at the digital drop-in sessions that we run at library work clubs. I help people that aren’t sure about how to use the computers, or who want to use their phone or tablet for job searching. I will do a Digital Taster session with the participant, sign them up to the project and then do a series of Digital One-To-One sessions with them. I deliver my sessions at libraries in Loughborough, Hinckley and Coalville, though I can go to other libraries if needed.
What things do you cover in your sessions, what do participants learn?
My sessions are very much tailored to the participant, so it depends upon what they want to learn and the gaps they may have in their skills. There are a lot of commonalities though; the majority haven’t used computers much before and tend to be quite apprehensive. So I provide a lot of reassurance and have them getting hands-on with the computers as quickly as possible. During the Digital Taster session I will show them how a mouse and keyboard works, logging on to the computer, navigating the desktop, using the Internet, doing a search with Google (including Maps and Images), navigating websites, and then towards the end of the session I’ll show them how to search for jobs. Some people have a bit more experience of using computers, so for these participants we may just look at doing job applications, using their emails and utilising common software packages like Microsoft Word and Excel. In the Digital One-To-One sessions that follow I would move on to introducing the participant to price comparison sites like uSwitch, showing them how to pay for a TV licence online, or apply for Universal Credit online. The Digital Taster is usually just one session, with the following Digital One-To-Ones lasting for four to six sessions. I can also help people with their devices like mobile phones and tablets, including showing them how to connect to the free Wi-Fi in the library.
What is the purpose of the sessions you deliver?
To get people to be able to use computers and digital devices independently, including using them to look for jobs, search the Internet, find directions, and do a bit of money management using online banking and price comparison sites. Our aim is to enable people to use computers for anything that they need them for; during the sessions we establish what their needs are and then set about teaching the participant the relevant skills.
Why is it important that people gain digital skills?
The main reason is that everything is online now, almost by default. If someone is claiming Universal Credit they’ll need to apply for it online, and if they need to search for jobs they’ll need to use email and make applications via online job sites too. If job searching is a condition of their receipt of benefits a failure to do so could result in them being sanctioned and losing some of their benefit money. There’s also the convenience aspect; once you have the requisite digital skills it’s much quicker and easier to do a lot of things online, such as shopping, banking, paying car tax, paying for your TV licence and applying for a passport. For people who are older or with mobility issues it can be a really useful resource. Finally there’s the potential to save a lot of money by doing online price comparisons and looking for deals.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
The sessions I do with clients, especially seeing them grow and develop. I enjoy all the client-facing activities that I do. Linking up with other organisations is enjoyable too.
Are there any participants you’ve especially enjoyed working with?
Yes, it’s really nice when participants come back to tell us about their success in finding a job. We had a lady we’d helped come in to share her good news with us just recently, so that really stuck in my mind as a positive outcome. There was also a gentleman in Coalville who was really lovely to work with, he’d bring along his laptop and we’d help him out with accessing its features. We’re lucky that there have been a lot of really great clients who have been a pleasure to work with.
Are you or someone you know struggling to develop digital skills? Moneywise Plus may be able to help you achieve this and much more. We offer support for all matters digital and financial, and can help you gain employability skills and the confidence to become work ready. To find out if you’re eligible for our project, visit our website or give us a call on 0300 003 7004.