Over £500,000 invested in providing digital devices to improve digital skills and connectivity in Walsall
15th November 2023
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The investment is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Connected Services Fund which aims to improve people’s digital skills and connectivity.


The WMCA, Walsall Council, Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and community and voluntary sector partners, have joined forces to deliver the Connected Services programme which  provides eligible residents with digital devices and, with support from Walsall Connected, practical help on how to use them effectively to improve their day to day lives.


The innovative approach not only aims to make it easier for people to access any council services and health and social care support they may need but also feel less isolated by helping them make connections.


Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, recently visited Walsall Manor Hospital to meet with partners and organisations that have been delivering the Connected Services Programme which has seen the 1,500 plus devices distributed around the borough since April this year.


The work has been key in supporting residents most at risk of digital exclusion by helping them access and use the devices to support their day to day lives - accessing financial support, council services as well as improving their skills and job prospects.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said: “It’s wonderful to have the chance to meet the voluntary and community sector organisations that have been instrumental in delivering these digital devices and the accompanying connectivity programme on the ground here in Walsall. They are fundamental to helping us identify those individuals that will most benefit from digital support.

“I hope residents will sense the level of commitment we have given in providing over £500,000 in WMCA funding for this programme. We recognise the importance of developing digital skills and widening access right across our region - ensuring no one is left behind in what is an increasingly digital world.

“Whether it’s accessing council services, health and social care support, financial guidance or new job opportunities, we know that programmes like these make a real tangible difference in the lives of local people and I cannot wait to see the results in the months and years ahead.”

Cllr Adrian Andrew, deputy leader of Walsall Council, said: "Today, we witnessed the remarkable impact of the Connected Services Programme which has been successfully delivered through our Walsall Connected network as we work together with the Walsall community to bridge digital divides, enhance job prospects, and combat social isolation. It's a testament to the transformative potential of our collaborative efforts in the borough.”


Professor David Loughton CBE, group chief executive of Walsall Healthcare and The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trusts, said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Mayor of the West Midlands to see first-hand the difference that Walsall Connected is making to many people’s lives in our local communities.

“As an organisation that is committed to playing its part in widening digital access to the people it serves, we are encouraged by the feedback that we have received so far about the success of siting such a facility in our hospital. I’d also like to thank the volunteers who support Walsall Connected and our Trust values.”

Liza Jackson, Walsall Connected partnership manager, Bloxwich Community Partnership, said: “We are proud to be part of the digital devices programme. At our Stan Ball Centre we mainly cater for people over 50. We have issued multiple devices to our centre users and this has enabled people to have access to a digital device who would not have typically owned one. 

“Alongside this we have offered free basic IT lessons and support in using the devices.  We have seen a significant reduction in digital fear and an increase in confidence in a cohort that may traditionally avoid or fear new technology. Several users have stated the positive impact this scheme has had on their life and improved their wellbeing.”


Harvinder Kumar, a young adults health and wellbeing coordinator for Positive Outcomes Project was at the event and said: “The Walsall Connected and digital devices programme has been really beneficial for the young people aged 16 to 25 that we support through POP in the borough.


“Whether it is through one-to-one support or in group based activities, we have been able to support over 250 young people to use the devices to help build CVs, to make friends, apply for jobs, complete college work, and really make a difference in their day to day lives.


“One of our young people was struggling with anxiety and we have supported them to use their art skills to create artwork on the Chromebook and use this as a talking point online to build confidence and to help them connect.”


The primary objective of Walsall Connected is to facilitate self-service access to council online services 24-7. This is achieved through the provision of in-person support, specifically tailored to help the most vulnerable residents in the borough with a network of 29 support sites set up in libraries, community organisations and key partners.

Partner, voluntary and community sector organisations that support Walsall Connected and were at the visit include Walsall Libraries, Walsall Manor Hospital Team, Positive Outcomes Project, Admiral Nurses, YMCA, Rycroft Community Association, Manor Farm Community Association, Bloxwich Community partnership, Old Hall peoples partnership, Aaina Community Hub, Walsall Black sisters Collective, EasyPeaze App, The Refugee and Migrant Centre, Walsall Citizens Advice.



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