Reducing reoffending through digital inclusion

100% Digital Leeds are leading a project to tackle digital exclusion for prisons, prisoners and prison-leavers in Leeds.

Having digital skills, connectivity, confidence, and motivation means prison leavers are better able to success in the areas of their lives that make people less likely to reoffend:

  • Finding secure housing 
  • Managing finances and accessing benefits
  • Engaging with education
  • Accessing work
  • Managing their health and wellbeing
  • Reconnecting with family and friends and building positive support networks

The project is split in to 3 key strands

Taking a community and strengths based approach 100% Digital Leeds is working with partners already supporting prisoners and ex-offenders to embed digital inclusion support into their existing services. With each strand of the project we look at how we can remove the four key barriers to digital inclusion: skills, confidence, connectivity, and motivation.

  • Improving digital inclusion support for prisoners 
  • Improving digital inclusion support for prison leavers
  • Improving the transition between services in prison and for prison leavers

The cross-sector Steering Group

On 20 May 2022 we held our second steering group meeting. 24 people from 17 different organisations attended to share knowledge about the work that has taken place so far and help shape the future plans.

We heard from several partners about the digital inclusion interventions they have implemented as part of this project, with support from 100% Digital Leeds, and the impact that work is having: 

Improving digital inclusion support for prisoners 

Immersive digital inclusion pilot at HMP Wealstun

Mark Acaster from HMP Wealstun has implemented a digital inclusion pilot in the sewing machine repair workshop at the prison. He has secured new equipment, modernising the stock control system and opening up more opportunities for prisoners to engage with digital software and hardware for stock management and form completion.

Mark shared how giving prisoners the opportunity to engage with digital outside of a formal education setting had been effective in building their confidence and improving their real-life digital skills. Mark is able to signpost prisoners to further improve their digital skills by engaging with formal education programmes. This pilot has sparked discussions about how similar approaches could be taken in other parts of the prison. 

“I have really enjoyed improving my I.T skills as I know they are going to help me upon release.”

Prisoner, HMP Wealstun

Opening up access to Barclays Digital Wings for prisoners 

Steve Grix from Novus and Matthew Daniells from Barclays have been working on delivering improved digital learning on Virtual Campus by opening up access to Barclays Digital Wings. This will allow prisoners support with a wider range of transferable digital skills with real-world applications. Barclays are also working with the steering group to look at how the content of Digital Wings can be updated to further meet the needs of prisoners.

Improving digital inclusion support for prison leavers

Community Calling device gifting pilot with Leeds Housing Options and Barca

We reflected on the successes of the pilot supporting prison leavers with connectivity by working with Leeds Housing Options and BARCA to gift smartphones with data to selected prison-leavers through Hubbub and O2’s Community Calling scheme. We followed the progress of the people who have been gifted devices and shared case studies around its impact, advocating for connectivity support alongside prison release and exploring how we can take this learning and implement a more sustainable approach to gifting devices and data.

Digital inclusion support for perpetrators of domestic violence at Change Grow Live

Alison Barrie from Change Grow Live (CGL) has been working with 100% Digital Leeds to design a bespoke digital inclusion intervention for perpetrators of domestic violence, as part of their Integrated Offender Management service. CGL staff have taken part in multiple digital inclusion workshops with 100% Digital Leeds to co-produce an intervention focussing on providing digital devices and connectivity in a way that makes best use of the organisation’s resources with limited risk. CGL have upgraded their IT suite and started piloting a scheme of device gifting and lending using internal funds, alongside staff championing digital and signposting to further support. So far there has been no recorded reoffending from recipients of a device from CGL.

“It [having access to the internet] has made my house a home”.

Service user, Change Grow Live

Improving staff awareness of digital inclusion issues and approaches at CFO

Emma Leigh from CFO Activity Hub shared how the Digital Inclusion Awareness Workshop they had with 100% Digital Leeds helped their staff to understand the potential digital inclusion needs of their service users and identify further  practical opportunities for embedding more digital inclusion into their existing activities. 

Improving the transition between services in prison and for prison leavers

Understanding the support available from DWP

Donnella Carrier from DWP explained their support on offer for prisoners and prison-leavers including contacting employers, dealing with benefit enquiries, signposting and discussing support needs and barriers to digital inclusion on induction and release. 

Understanding the support available from Shannon Trust

Ian Merrill from Shannon Trust talked about how they provide peer-led basic literacy and numeracy in prisons via Learning & Skills Managers. He quoted that 57% of people coming through the prison system have a reading age of 11 or less. Shannon Trust’s literacy app based on phonics-based programme Turning Pages will be available later in 2022, as part of the Ministry of Justice’s Prison Leaver Innovation Challenge. 

Next Steps

  • Exploring further options to increase connectivity for prison leavers including encouraging partners to register with the National Databank and forthcoming Device Bank. 
  • Round table discussion with Digital Wings with an open invite for organisations to attend and give feedback on their curriculum and suggestions of gaps or improvements. 
  • Round table discussion with key partners looking at how women prisoners and prison-leavers experience digital exclusion and bespoke interventions that could be designed to meet those specific needs.
  • Offering Digital Inclusion Awareness workshops to support partner workforce development.
  • Next steering group – the date will go out in July. For an invitation email