The Old Fire Station recently appointed a Digital Inclusion Officer who will not only offer support to those who come to the Old Fire Station, but also help the organisations along the York Road increase their capacity and ability to support digital inclusion for anyone living in the York Road area of the city. The 12 month post is supported by NHS Health Inequalities Funding to support the development of the local Digital Health Hub Network.
Chris, the new Digital Inclusion Officer, is passionate about why digital inclusion matters so much in today’s world:
“The pandemic and lock-downs really highlighted the need to help people with their digital knowledge and confidence. Giving people the ability to stay in contact with loved ones and access information about local organisations and healthcare is such an important aspect in terms of health and wellbeing. If we can help people become more confident online – we can open up a whole world of possibilities for them.”Chris Bamber, Digital Inclusion Officer at The Old Fire Station.
Increasing digital support at The Old Fire Station
The Old Fire Station in Gipton opened its doors as a new hub for the community in 2017 after significant investment and renovation. It now houses six different not-for-profit organisations which, between them, offer support to a huge number of people in East Leeds. The Old Fire Station is proud to be one of Leeds’ Digital Health Hubs, offering a safe warm space, free wifi, access to digital equipment, and a variety of support to improve digital skills and confidence.
Chris has started weekly digital drop-in sessions at the Old Fire Station on Thursdays between 10am and 1pm, offering support to anyone with any queries about how to use a device they have or just want to get started. As well as help and advice, people can make use of free wifi, access laptops and other devices, and be gifted sims with free 4G data. These drop-ins are supported by the Leeds City Council mobile Community Hub which is parked directly outside and can offer assistance regarding benefits, housing, and other council transactions.
From chatting to the different organisations running groups from the Fire Station, it became clear that there were a few big issues that people raise when discussion their digital exclusion and reasons behind it. Costs, the overwhelming nature of the topic, online safety and fear of scams are all areas which Chris wants to help people overcome.
Increasing digital support across the York Road area
Alongside the help sessions provided at the Fire Station, Chris works as part of the 100% Digital Leeds team building organisational capacity to deliver digital inclusion support across the York Road area of Leeds. He is working closely with all current Digital Health Hubs in the area to help expand or improve their digital sessions as well as to bring in other local organisations who want to join and themselves become Digital Health Hubs. Operating as a network across the York Road area means the organisations can highlight best practises and share resources and information.
“Having the ability to link up and share knowledge with other organisations so we can all help each other is wonderful. It means we can all do as much as we can to give our members the maximum amount of help.”Burmantofts Senior Action
Challenges and opportunities ahead
Chris has spent his first weeks in the role meeting organisations delivering digital inclusion support in the local area, meeting with organisations like Richmond Hill Elderly Aid, St Vincent’s, and Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours. The common theme across all network partners is that, while demand and necessity for digital inclusion support is growing all the time, the capacity of organisations to deliver is stretched to the maximum.
Over the coming months Chris will be working with organisations to secure further funding to support increased access to equipment and capacity to support more people with their digital skills and confidence. Chris is also working with a corporate partner to explore how their corporate social responsibility volunteering offer could offer organisations working across the area support to deliver their digital skills support sessions.
If you work with people living in the York Road area who would benefit from digital inclusion support and would be interested in hearing from Chris Contact us.