Partner profile: St Paul’s Ireland Wood

St Paul’s Ireland Wood is an Anglican church and part of the diocese of Leeds. The church focuses on making a difference in the lives of individuals, the community, and the wider society. They offer a range of groups and services for local residents who are isolated, on a low income, or otherwise in need. Services include hosting the Ireland Wood outlet of the Leeds North and West Foodbank, Money Buddies debt advice service, ‘Baby Basics’, a voluntary group providing essentials to expectant and new parents, and their new ‘Warm Welcome’ , a weekly group providing a warm space and hot meal. .

St Paul’s Ireland Wood is working closely with the Woodsley and Holt Park Digital Inclusion Officer to embed digital inclusion support into existing services. As a result the church now offers digital skills support and access to digital devices, as well as free wifi, for the benefit of the local community.

“Our digital offer has really developed over the past six months and Ayisha’s help has been a big part of that. We have been able to increase our offer so that we can now give people access to iPads. Ayisha has helped train up our volunteers so they can also offer weekly digital support and help with signposting.”

Rev Bev Monck, St Paul’s Ireland Wood.

Understanding the digital inclusion need for support

St Paul’s Ireland Wood initially supported service users with access to free wifi. At their ‘Warm Welcome’ session they responded to the need for occasional support with digital tools and services such as helping people complete online forms or their Universal Credit journal. They identified that service users may need further digital inclusion support and invited the Digital Inclusion Officer to attend a Warm Welcome session to help better understand the needs, and barriers faced.

“At my age you don’t think about learning new things, especially online, but Ayisha showed me how to use an iPad and helped me understand how to search for information on things like food, local history, and sports people I like. I really enjoyed her company when she attended the Warm Welcome evenings.”

John, service user at St Paul’s Ireland Wood.

The Digital Inclusion Officer attended the Warm Welcome session and spent time chatting with service users about their use of digital and sharing tips on how to improve their digital skills. As some service users do not own a digital device, two devices owned by the church were made available for service users to use throughout the evening while they were enjoying a hot meal.

Older service users used the tablets to research recreational interests such as history, documentaries, and sports. Parents were supported with navigating phone settings, and setting up apps on tablets as this was a barrier for them on their own devices at home. The children used the tablets to play games online.

“One of the important things was to see how different people engaged with digital and some of the barriers they have when it comes to getting online, using apps, and their own devices. Seeing the variety in use and needs allowed us to see that digital needs vary from person to person, and how important it is to support everyone based on the level they are at, and the things that are important to them.”  

Ayisha, Digital Inclusion Officer, Woodsley and Holt Park LCP.

Building on the existing digital inclusion offer

The Digital Inclusion Officer identified the need for more devices to support access for service users without their own smart phone, tablet, or laptop. Five iPads with 4G data were borrowed from Leeds Libraries. This additional equipment has allowed St Pauls to offer further support with digital access and skills development during the Warm Welcome sessions and other services used by people more likely to be digitally excluded.  

The Digital Inclusion Officer supported the team at St Paul’s to deliver digital skills support during the Warm Welcome evenings that took place from September to November 2023. She used this time to train the church’s existing volunteers to offer digital inclusion support themselves. Volunteers were supported in how to have positive conversations with service users who may be low in digital skills, confidence, and motivation, and as a result reluctant to engage with digital tools. They also learned how to support service users to develop their digital skills and independently use digital tools and services.

Since December 2023, digital skills support has been made available across the church’s service offer. The team of volunteers at St Paul’s now deliver this support independently and have enjoyed seeing service users make the most of the online world.  

“The team at St Paul’s have done an exceptional job at learning on the spot and driving interest in digital inclusion within their existing activities. It has been refreshing to see people get comfortable after a few tries of using the tablets and then asking questions about how they can do the same thing at home.”

Ayisha, Woodsley and Holt Park Digital Inclusion Officer.

Next steps  

As St Paul’s continues to thrive in their digital provision, they plans to register with the National Databank which will allow them to gift SIM cards with free 4G data to members of their community struggling with digital poverty.

They are also working closely with the Digital Inclusion Officer to increase their capacity for supporting digital inclusion. Better Leeds Communities, the local organisation that hosts the Digital Inclusion Officer on behalf of the Woodsley and Holt Park Local Care Partnership, is also hosting University of Leeds Social Work placement students to help increase capacity for further digital inclusion provision across the area. The students will be supporting St Paul’s with additional digital skills sessions between March and July 2024.