Ordering medications quickly and easily, feeling safe online, getting food shopping delivered to your door, and enjoying video calls with friends and family – these are just some of the everyday online activities that many of us take for granted, but are denied to those without digital skills.
Launched in 2020, Shropshire’s Digital Skills Programme helps residents achieve these skills. The initial pilot was funded by Shropshire Council and the Local Government Association (LGA). Since 2022 it has since become solely Council-funded, benefitting hundreds of learners aged 65+ by helping them gain vital digital skills. At present, the programme has 76 Digital Volunteers delivering a programme of one-to-one support - but is always looking for more.
Compared to other areas, Shropshire has a higher number of older people who do not know how to use the internet. Like most other organisations worldwide, Shropshire Council has put many of their essential services online, making confidence in using the internet an important everyday life skill.
The Digital Skills Programme is delivered through 16 Shropshire Library locations and 3 local voluntary and community organisations (all VCSA members!): The Roy Fletcher Centre in Shrewsbury, the Mayfair Centre in Church Stretton, and Age UK Shropshire Telford & Wrekin, which provides learn-at-home support for those unable to access a community setting.
Andrea Miller, Shropshire Council digital skills programme lead, said:
“People can learn on their own tablet, mobile phone or laptop, and we have free devices and connectivity for participants in greatest need.”
The learners involved in the programme report huge life impacts beyond the convenience of going online, including less loneliness and isolation, and improved mental health. The latest feedback data reports that 65% of learners have an overall improvement in their health and wellbeing as a result of being digitally enabled.
One 74-year-old customer says:
“I could just about use my iPad to call my son in Australia and nothing else. Now, after just a few sessions, I can look things up on Google, send messages and emails and watch Netflix. I look forward to the IT Club all week. It’s brilliant. I was a builder by trade and knew nothing about technology. Now, my son keeps saying ‘Welcome to the 21st century Dad!’”
Shropshire Council has recently extended the funding for this programme to March 2026.
Any resident over the age of 65 can simply refer themselves for free digital support at their local library or through their nearest community learning provider. A direct referral can be made from any Shropshire Local point.
Know someone who can benefit from this programme or might like to volunteer? The Digital Skills Programme is looking for more volunteers to help with weekly one-to-one support. Good digital skills, lots of patience and a friendly outlook are the main attributes required. Please contact Andrea Miller to connect learners with their local learning provider or to learn more about volunteer opportunities.