FIFTY Solihull residents are logging on to develop their computer skills thanks to a £70,000 initiative offering free IT equipment and training.
People are being offered a free computer and internet access in their homes, plus training and support from a computer club or ‘buddy’ as part of the Learning and Skills Council-funded ‘Access IT’ scheme.
The new programme is aimed at anyone aged 18 to 65 whose access to IT has been limited by a low household income or disability and is managed in partnership between Solihull voluntary organisation consortium SUSTAiN and ReCOM, a local charity that provides refurbished computers and training.
ReCOM trainer Rebecca Hunt leads a weekly computer club at Smith’s Wood Sports College and believes the programme can make a real difference.
“For most people, the first thing they want to learn is how to use email to keep in touch with family or friends or the internet for things like shopping and banking,” said Rebecca. “The aim is to enable people to use a computer independently in their homes so, while supplying good quality, refurbished equipment is the first step, running the clubs alongside helps people develop the IT skills and confidence they need.
“Most are complete beginners who have never turned a computer on before so that lack of confidence is a big barrier.”
Doreen Jobson says the scheme has helped her keep up with the lives of her 13 grandchildren.
“The youngest is nine and the oldest 30 so it’s quite hard to keep up with them all,” says the 76-year-old, of Smith’s Wood.
“One of my grandchildren has just started at university so I’ve learned how to log on to Facebook to find out what she’s been up to. I’ve learned how to shop online – the people at the computer club helped me choose a cardigan for my son’s wedding then put my payment details in. When it arrived the next day, I was over the moon.”
ReCOM have filled the 50 initial places and have a further 20 people who have expressed interest, whom they will try and accommodate.