Scottish Government awards £600,000 to digital inclusion projects

The Scottish Government has awarded £600,000 to thirteen projects from across Scotland as part of the first round of funding from their Digital Inclusion Programme. 

Around 1500 people are expected to benefit from the projects in the first round. A spokesperson told Government Transformation Magazine: “The Scottish Government wants everyone to have the opportunity to access the digital world.”

The programme aims to improve resident’s access to online mental health and housing support. Housing support is focused on preventing digital exclusion for people living in some areas. 

Each chosen project is tasked with developing, testing an implementing a programme to help the government understand how to best support people digitally in the future. 

Further rounds of funding will be available following these project trials, with a total budget of £2 million available.

Leaving no one behind  

The Digital Inclusion Programme was launched in March 2023 and is led by the Digital Health and Care Directorate, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and Connecting Scotland.  

“Supporting people to feel more digitally confident so they can access the services they need online is absolutely vital” said Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care, Michael Matheson. 

He continued: “This programme will see models tested that will help so many people gain the skills they need to improve their own health and know how to access the support that is available to them.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson told Government Transformation Magazine that the schemes ensure "no one is left behind" because of connectivity issues. "By enabling digital inclusion, we can create greater equity of access to health and care data by digital means." 

They added that the key is ensuring “appropriate, sustainable approaches to support people both accessing and providing services” is available to everyone working for, or benefiting from, the programme.  

A truly collaborative effort

The spokesperson highlighted the role of departmental collaboration within the programme saying it will “seek to create a shared understanding of digital inclusion across health, social care and housing.” 

In addition, they emphasised the importance of offering support via local charities as the programme does saying “working in this way will give us useful insight both into potential barriers to accessing digital options, and how these can be addressed.” 

Aaron Slater the Digital Inclusion Manager at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) told Government Transformation Magazine that they are “delighted” to be partnering with the Digital Health and Care Directorate to deliver the programme. 

He described it as  a “truly collaborative effort” particularly as it has allowed them to produce a collaborative research paper on the pillars of digital inclusion alongside the Digital Health and Care Directorate.

Slater highlighted the relevance of the programme saying “the digitisation of public services demands increased focus on digital inclusion, otherwise we risk further exacerbating, and creating new, inequalities.”

He continued to state the SCVO’s mission “to understand how we actively design for digital inclusion, and how this could be scaled for further areas of public service delivery.”

The Scottish government spokesperson said this collaborative effort will ensure the programme “represents specific digital challenges in local communities across Scotland.”

The projects receiving funding are: 

Aberdeen Foyer, a project designed to help young people at risk of homelessness and digital exclusion. 

Blackwood Homes and Care who provide ‘digital buddies’ to help prevent the digital exclusion of elderly people in rural, supported living accommodation. 

Simon Community Scotland who work with recently homeless people who have found accommodation to provide them with devices and connectivity to prevent digital exclusion. 

Prospect Community Housing Ltd. offers digital drop ins and one to one digital support for people with disabilities and long term health conditions. 

Shettleston Housing Association Ltd. provide digital skills support to people who are retired or out of work. 

Link Living which supports young people with moderate and severe mental health problems to improve their digital skills. 

Queens Cross Housing Association Ltd. provides digital skills sessions in community spaces including coding workshops for young people and digital cafes for older people. 

Carr Gomm which offers online peer networks to help people build communities online, improving wellbeing and digital inclusion. 

Saheliya provides language and digital support to New Scots women to improve wellbeing and inclusion. 

Moray Wellbeing Hub offers online and in person digital support to people suffering from poor mental health via their Digital Mental Health Capacity Building. 

Scottish Association for Mental Health who provide digital support for people in supported living accommodation. 

Cyrenians who work with people with long term health conditions who are moving from hospital care to residential care by providing one to one digital support. 

Just Bee Productions who offer digital support to people with mental health conditions to allow them to access online support, assessments and more. 

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