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Worcestershire Libraries provide digital lifeline for local adults with learning disabilities

Published Friday, 21st May 2021

30 adults with learning disabilities have been given a ‘Digital Lifeline’ by Worcestershire Libraries after receiving free internet-ready tablets, internet connection and ongoing digital support.

‘Digital Lifeline’ is a national project that was set up as an emergency response to help digitally excluded adults at increased risk of isolation due to Covid-19. Its aim is to get technology, data and digital skills support to adults with learning disabilities to enable them to stay connected, reduce loneliness and support their mental health and wellbeing.

Digital Lifeline in Worcestershire is being led by Worcestershire libraries with funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and specialist digital support from national organisations ‘The Good Things Foundation’ and ‘AbilityNet’.

Worcestershire libraries identified recipients for the Digital Lifeline service through eight local partners including the Freedom Day Centre, ReddiSupport, Working World and Wildgoose Rural Training.

Feedback from recipients so far has been overwhelmingly positive - two thirds of participants said their digital skills are now better as a result of having and using the device and over half feel more connected to friends and family.

One recipient said: “I absolutely love my tablet. I didn't have a device at all. I am so excited that I can now keep in touch with my family and friends and I have been shown how to remain safe which is important. Thank you so much.”

A member of support staff said: “For one recipient, the tablet is his only method of communication, so it is invaluable. He feels much more confident about technology. He feels very strongly that it has made a positive impact on his life.”

Hannah Perrott, Assistant Director for Communities, added: "We’re delighted that libraries were able to deliver the Digital Lifeline scheme in Worcestershire to help digitally excluded residents. 30 adults with learning disabilities now have access to digital technology and ongoing skills support that will reduce their risk of social isolation and help them recover from the impact of Covid-19.

The support network for members of the Digital Lifeline scheme is extensive. Thanks to a team of library Digital Champion volunteers, Worcestershire libraries will continue to provide advice and training for the recipients of the devices and run courses on a range of topics such as downloading apps, video calling, online art, e magazines and e audiobooks.

Wider tech support will be provided to recipients and their support network through a partnership with AbilityNet, specialist providers of support and advice to people with disabilities.

Worcestershire libraries will be able to further boost digital support to residents after securing 20 training places on Digital Unite’s Aspire programme - providing opportunities for adults with learning disabilities, their carers and support staff to train become digital champions.

Worcestershire libraries provide free access to public computers and Wi-Fi. Library customers can pre-book computer sessions for up to 2 hours per day and study desks for up to 4 hours per day by calling the Customer Contact Centre on 01905 822722 (Mon – Fri 9am-5pm) or book online via the dedicated libraries pages on the County Council website.

To find out more about wider digital skills support provided by Worcestershire libraries visit the Digital Services section of the Digital Library Hub pages of the County Council website.