Lead Scotland

Case study

Lead Scotland’s satellite Digital Progression project was set up across the north of Scotland in April 2018 to support disabled people and carers, by providing learning opportunities, personalised support and the loan of technology to develop digital skills, on a non formal basis or working towards a qualification.

In autumn 2019 a Highland Trust contacted one of our Learning Coordinators looking for one to one digital skills training for a disabled woman who needed to improve her digital skills to support her Universal Credit claim, to maintain her Universal Credit journal and look for work. The woman did not have a device or broadband, had no existing digital skills, had very limited access to public transport, and few opportunities for local employment. The Coordinator liaised with the learner, offering a loan of technology and bespoke support in an accessible hotel near the learner which had wifi. The following week the learner arrived for her lesson, with five other local women who were also seeking digital skills.

The main aims of the project are to engage people on a learning journey, building confidence and relevant digital skills, benefiting individuals, families and communities. Many disabled people who want to use our services experience multiple barriers to learning which is why our support is tailored and mostly the support is one to one. We listen. Not everyone can articulate what support they need, or are able to visualise where their journey will take them. We begin where they need to begin and in partnership with a learner the support changes as their confidence and ambition grows. Many learners ask to start with home based visits and learning support as a group situation either feels like too big a jump at the beginning of their learning journey or travel is in itself a barrier. Progress isn’t always linear, but milestones are always achieved, such as: increased confidence, feeling more connected, improved digital and core skills, a qualification. Our services act as a bridge to further learning, volunteering and work. Basic digital skills open doors and widen horizons. We try to inspire people to see the potential application of building digital skills for their own context, whether that’s something they need immediately like learning how to sign up to agencies for job alerts or possibilities they hadn’t yet considered like feeling connected, included and more able to be participate.

Flexing the service allows us to adapt our learning offer to meet changing needs of the six group members who by November were enjoying the social benefits as well as the peer learning. Having introduced the original group of six to Ipads, four of them have moved onto using laptops. One learner was delighted transfer the new digital skills to using her mobile phone. Three of them are signing up undertake an SCQF level 3 Adult Achievement Award with us to gain a qualification. Whilst all the learners want to learn digital skills in order to stay connected, due to the isolation and rural remote nature of their local community, they also all need to learn additional digital skills in order to seek and register for employment and services. 50% of the learners do not have broadband in their homes, they have no mobile signal and there is one bus to the local supermarket, once per week.

When learning digital skills it is imperative to use up to date technology. One learner had an out of date device which had undermined her confidence considerably. There was a necessity for her to improve her digital skills in order to actively seek employment. We were able to loan the learner both an IPad and a laptop to replace her virtually unusable out of date devices. The learner had had a seasonal job locally, but found it challenging as her laptop skills were limited, which again undermined her confidence and created anxiety around using technology. Having lent the IPad to the learner, and downloaded some useful apps, the learner was able to use her newly acquired skills to pursue her self-employment, selling online. Within one week she had been so successful, due to her improved confidence, that the learner earned enough money to enable her to purchase a new mobile phone. We have linked the phone to the Ipad which now supports easy access across devices and importantly sharing photos. The training and loaned equipment enables our learner to stay up to date on the auction site and respond to questions. The learner was absolutely amazed and delighted and her confidence

soared. She had wrongly assumed the problems with her device were her digital and technology problems not issues due to the age of her devices. She was not confident when we met and was surprised when I said she contributed a lot to the group in terms of support and she was a real asset. She was genuinely surprised that she could be viewed in such a positive light. Borrowing a device from Lead Scotland, has allowed the learner to use her newly found skills, to benefit her both in terms of confidence, improved social community cohesion and financially.

We have three calls to action

  • We are always looking for volunteers who have good digital skills to support people enable us to reach more people one to one.
  • We run the only disabled students helpline in Scotland please spread the word so that more people realise their rights and entitlements to the right support.
  • We need to provide up to date devices, laptops and assistive technology through our home loan scheme so that people can safely build confidence and skills. If you can support us through partnership or funding support to enable us to reach more people or keep our IT up to date please get in touch.

With your support more disabled people and carers can find a catalyst for positive change, to flourish as individuals, build the capability and resilience of their families and strengthen communities by their participation as active citizens and workers. The unique aspect of our service is one to one personalised support to learn and progress almost always starting with a home visit. Digital exclusion stems from social exclusion. Help us bring people together to learn and progress.