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Digital Blog – Time to reinvent

Scott Tandy, Community Regeneration Officer at Newydd Housing Association explains why housing associations are now reinventing themselves digitally.

Until recently, housing associations have had the luxury of time when it comes to digital inclusion, not being forced to adapt or think differently about the way they engage with tenants. There has always been a traditional method of communication available when providing services, training and support. With the spread of COVID-19, it has meant organisations have been forced to very quickly adapt and reinvent themselves in order to continue to offer services in what is now a different World.

As the Community Regeneration Officer for Newydd, leading on Digital Inclusion, I have had the pleasure of welcoming many tenants and the wider community to my digital support sessions, digital drop-ins and training courses to get access to digital equipment, learn new or develop old digital skills.

Whilst I am sure my digital support sessions, digital drop-in sessions and courses will continue to run in some shape or form after this pandemic is over, I have had to adapt my digital offering to help those struggling to grasp the digital World in the here and now.

I used to provide one to one sessions at the tenants’ home, now I support tenants over the phone, by text or via video calling applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Facetime. I have found that utilising applications, that the tenant is already confident in using, makes for a better learning environment and therefore a more successful lesson.

Most recently we have quickly expanded our ‘Loan IT’ project to offer even more tablets, laptops and internet data to tenants identified by our Housing and Financial Inclusion Officers. These devices have been preloaded with useful websites saved on the home screen, and depending on the tenants’ needs, a folder of printed resources is also included to allow the tenant to teach themselves essential skills.

Likewise, we have also been working closely with Glamorgan Voluntary Services (GVS) who have been forthcoming in providing an abundance of computers donated from Cardiff Metropolitan University to gift to our tenants. Feedback from tenants that have accessed our ‘Loan IT project’ and received gifted equipment through our ‘Donate IT project’ has been incredibly positive. If you are an organisation looking to set up something similar, I am more than happy to share the paperwork I have created to support you and your organisation.

Moving forward, I hope that what we have achieved at Newydd is only scratching the surface of what we can offer and how we can best support our tenants throughout this difficult time. I am reluctant to wait and preserve the digital support we have had but instead look to collaborate with organisations to provide a new, improved digital support service, whatever that may be.

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