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Kent Housing Associations Announce New Digital Inclusion Partnership

Kent Housing Associations Announce New Digital Inclusion Partnership

A consortium of housing providers across Kent are working with digital inclusion charity Citizens Online to enable residents to use the internet and develop their digital skills. The Consortium includes Golding Homes, Town & Country Housing Group, Orbit and West Kent Housing Association. The work is being part funded by The Big Lottery Fund as part of a programme of work called One Digital.

The overall aim of the new partnership is to improve tenant’s basic digital skills and confidence to access online opportunities and services. Whilst almost half of those who are digitally excluded live in social housing, digital inclusion can give tenants more choice and control and better access to lower-cost, improved services.

The new partnership will begin with a digital Inclusion research and partnership development project within Kent, focused on digital exclusion issues within the social housing sector. A detailed evidence base of the digital exclusion issues within some key areas of focus will be produced alongside an action plan for tackling them.

Citizens Online will be working with the group of Kent Housing Associations  through their award winning "Switch" approach, which takes an evidence-based approach to digital inclusion, targeting resources where they are needed, rather than where it is easy to deliver. They work mainly with and through existing organisations, rather than setting up new independent providers or sessions of training and support. One goal is to increase housing workers engagement and confidence in delivering digital inclusion support through recruitment and training of Digital Champions. Digital Champions provide one-to-one support to those needing help to do more online.

John Fisher, Chief Executive of Citizens Online said "We have been impressed with the Kent consortium’s willingness to work together on a joined-up solution to this difficult issue of supporting digital skills. We want to change the way local service providers and funders perceive the issue of digital inclusion - from being a ‘bolt on activity’ to a way of working that is part of business as usual."

Stuart Ilsley, Head of Service Transformation at Town & Country Housing Group said “We are aiming to support and encourage collaboration between social housing providers and other statutory, 3rd sector and commercial organisations within Kent in support of digital inclusion activity. Partnership is the only sustainable way to tackle this issue.”