Greetings readers, and welcome to our May blog post! This time we’re meeting another member of the Moneywise Plus team: Alex Hatcher, who is our Digital Engagement Team Leader based at E2. We caught up with him about the services E2 provides and all matters digital.
Who are E2 and what do you do? What are your aims?
E2 is a charity based in Beaumont Leys. E2 stands for Empowering Through Education. We run several different projects with the aim to improve the lives of local residents.
What services do you provide?
We have an Alternative Education Provision called Project Strike-Out, which works with young people who have been excluded from school, as well as Moneywise Plus where we work one-to-one with unemployed and economically inactive people with the aim of improving their computer skills. We give a holistic assessment of what their needs are and help to move them towards further education or employment. Smaller projects include Drop the Knife, Live Your Life: this educates local teenagers about the dangers of carrying knives and aims to break the cycle of knife crime, which is unfortunately an issue in the local area. On Fridays we have Food Hub, where disadvantaged people who are experiencing a crisis or emergency can collect a food parcel so they can feed themselves and their family. We also offer community IT sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, where people from the local area who don’t have access to or knowledge of computers can use the facilities here. Support is provided by our tutors who are available onsite; we also use an online learning service so service users can successfully complete day-to-day tasks.
How do people access your services?
For the most part we operate a drop-in system: people are welcome to visit our reception, tell us about their needs and we can then introduce our services and provide guidance about the best ways we can support them. We can also book people in for support sessions over the telephone. To use the food bank people can arrive before it opens and complete a referral form in order to access the service. Some of our projects are tailored to specific groups, for example we run an art club for children aged 6-12, and our Drop The Knife, Live Your Life project is aimed at young people. Moneywise Plus is much more broad-ranging in terms of age groups, it just depends upon the economic status of the participant. The community IT sessions are available to everybody.
What support do you offer to Moneywise Plus participants?
The support we offer is based around one-to-one appointments. We start with an initial assessment to determine the participant’s needs: at first specifically around their digital skills and use of computers, and then secondly the wider issues they can address on the project such as self-confidence, looking for volunteering opportunities, managing their money more effectively and so on. Once we’ve established that someone is eligible and suitable for the project we would conduct a number of tailored one-to-one digital support sessions with them. The number would depend upon the person in question and their individual needs. Sometimes people have pretty good computer skills and just need help learning how to complete specific tasks, in which case we’d just do a few sessions with them to address these problems. Then, if there’s the potential for further development and to achieve qualifications, we can refer them on to the Leicester College City Skills Centre for accredited courses. This can be particularly helpful for those participants who are looking to re-enter paid employment and who need to provide evidence of their skills.
Why is the work you do important? Why are your services needed?
The work we do is very important because many people have been left behind by the digital revolution. Many people may have been working for the last several decades in industry without needing to use computers, and then have been laid off. Upon going to the job centre, they realise that they need to complete job applications using online systems. Some participants don’t have any background in computers because they’ve never needed to use them, others haven’t had a good experience with the education system so need additional support to engage with gaining new skills and learning. We’ve also found that there isn’t enough provision for IT access in the local area: libraries nearby don’t have enough computers to go around and people can usually only use them for an hour at a time.
Why do people seek support from you or use your services? What kind of problems are they dealing with?
We find that the people we work with face a massive range of issues, and that a lot of them never acquired the digital skills that are becoming increasingly necessary to succeed in the current climate. Many of our participants missed acquiring computer skills at school, and then went straight into the work that was available at the time, which didn’t involve computers. There also wasn’t the culture of lifelong learning that there is now. Suddenly they’re finding themselves in situations where they have to use computers, and they struggle with it. Some of our clients have learning difficulties, which has prevented them engaging and developing new skills in the past because they weren’t adequately supported in mainstream education or training. Sometimes participants don’t have a direct need to use a computer, but are curious, want to know more and improve their skills.
Do you have any clients that you feel have particularly benefitted from your services?
I’ve had several clients who had been extremely socially isolated for several reasons, and the Digital Skills sessions have really changed their outlook in terms of what they believe they can achieve. With a little encouragement, they can move closer to employment or manage their lives more easily. It can be very surprising sometimes: on one occasion I bumped into a former client who I had helped find some part-time work, and he told me that he was working full-time now and had found my sessions incredibly helpful. That was brilliant to hear.
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.