Jeremy Hunt should listen to this woman

There’s been a lot of discussion in the last 48 hours around the fact Jeremy Hunt, whose views on health – and mental health in particular – never fail to reach the headlines, is to remain as health secretary. It also happens to be Mental Health Awareness Week.

Last week I had some minor surgery done at my local NHS hospital in Sheffield. I was a day patient for over eight hours, and throughout that time I was treated and cared for by a wonderful team. I left that day feeling very lucky to have access to the wonderful NHS – a resource that is so easy to take for granted. (I’m fine by the way.)

I am fortunate that my job allows me to see so many examples of the great work the NHS does through Tinder Foundation’s Widening Digital Participation Programme.

The programme, which is heading into its third year:

  • Has reached 235,465 people to raise awareness of digital health resources
  • 140,892 people have been trained to manage their health online
  • 51% of those people taking part have been able to explore new ways of improving their mental health

If numbers aren’t really your thing, then I’d recommend watching this brilliant video and hearing directly from some of the people that have benefitted.

Jeremy Hunt, you should watch this video and if you’re really pushed for time, fast-forward to 2:00 minutes to hear one of my favourite quotes from a woman who makes a lot of sense.


I’m proud to say that the Widening Digital Participation Programme has been nominated for an award at the Digital Leaders 100.

I’m so pleased that the hard work and dedication of our team, including the UK online centres, and NHS England is being recognised through this prestigious industry award. If you’ve got another couple of minutes please do head across to their website and give us a vote.

Roger: a long journey to hope

One cold, dark, rainy Friday morning in January, I got onto the 7.27am train from Sheffield to London and sat at a table opposite a woman. I had those “winter blues”; too many months without proper sunshine, catching early morning trains, and Friday is usually the day when I get to see the team in the office.

After a while the woman opposite and I got talking. She worked for NHS England and was also feeling tired having stayed up until 2am working on an important document. The first nice thing was that she had heard positive things about Tinder Foundation and our NHS England Widening Participation programme. The second nice thing was that I found myself talking about the work I do – with the team, and with the thousands of community partners that we have – and about the impact of that work. One person I talked about in particular was Roger Hamilton, and his remarkable story.

Roger Hamilton

Roger Hamilton

The first time I met Roger was at an event at the House of Commons that we hosted back in 2012, where he was working at St Mungo’s homeless charity (now St Mungo’s Broadway). He had returned to the UK after spending some time in Jamaica, and found himself without work, without friends and family, and without anywhere to live.

He spent ten years homeless, sofa surfing, living in hostels, and some time rough sleeping, and this chaotic lifestyle led to poor health and to despair. In 2010 he found his way to St Mungo’s, where he found shelter and support, and he then visited a local UK online centre (Holborn Library) where he learned how to use the internet and he found hope.

Roger told me that when he was living in Jamaica, computers and the internet were luxuries. When he came back to London he didn’t have the skills to participate in society, and he didn’t have the skills he needed to find work. Roger got the basics of how to use the internet at the UK online centre in Holborn Library, using Learn My Way; he was then supported by St Mungo’s to get more skills.

He felt empowered, he felt in touch with the world, and he found himself supporting other people at St Mungo’s to keep motivated to get the skills they need for an increasingly digital world. He began by volunteering and then moved into paid work as a tutor, but then he left St Mungo’s to move onto another job and we lost touch. I was so moved by Roger and how he spoke so eloquently and powerfully, and was so committed to helping other people to make the same transformative journey he had made, that I never forgot him.

Last year I was delighted to get an invitation to visit to St Mungo’s Broadway, because I have always been impressed with the work they do. I met with the CEO and his team, and then had a walk around their venue and met some people who were just beginning to use the internet and were feeling more positive about their futures. I asked one of the staff if they remembered Roger, she looked at me a bit confused, and said “he works here”. So, Roger had left and come back again. I was so happy to see him again and to hear about how well he was doing. He is now a Job Coach at St Mungo’s Broadway and he’s helping people there to gain skills, and dignity, and hope.

Roger working at St Mungo’s Broadway

Roger working at St Mungo’s Broadway

The woman on the train remarked on the huge cost to the NHS of homeless people, who often suffer poor health and piecemeal support from the health service. A 2012 report says that just one homeless person costs Government between £24,000 – £30,000 a year, and it’s likely that figure is now even higher. So policy makers can look at the fiscal benefits, as well as the human benefits, of helping just one person who (like Roger a few years ago) is homeless.

Roger’s story is so powerful, and I thought you too would like to feel this ray of sunshine whenever the sky near you is looking a bit grey and miserable, or you’re needing to hear how one man’s new found hope led him to help hundreds of others to take the same journey.

You can hear Roger tell his story in his own words.

General Election 2015

275 pages later – do the latest Manifestos include digital inclusion?

I have to admit feeling disappointed not to have seen more about digital inclusion in the manifestos that have been released over the last few days. The most prominent mention was from the SNP, who have said they want to deliver a future-proofed infrastructure, which will include tackling the digital divide. This is good news for over a million people in Scotland who still lack basic online skills. The other parties have given digital a mention, but not specifically about getting people online.

The SNP also included improved broadband connections, as did Plaid Cymru who placed real emphasis on Wales getting people the access they need at home in order for them to connect with society. The SNP are committed to making sure that access to the internet is affordable and reaches those in the most disadvantaged communities; they also intend to invest £1.5m to increase the free provision of wifi in public buildings. Good to see, however skills need to be addressed alongside this.

There was a focus on young people across almost all the manifestos with UKIP pledging to address the important issue of online child safety. Plaid Cymru would introduce key skills into education to ensure that all young people have IT skills and can understand the technology that surrounds them. UKIP and Plaid Cymru also agreed that the tuition fees for technology-based degrees should be removed to encourage more people to pursue careers in the tech field.

The Green Party manifesto took a slightly different approach to digital by promising to support and protect ‘internet freedom’, with an emphasis on ensuring controls over the data that our digital lives create is maintained and not privatised.

There isn’t as much promise in these manifestos when compared to the three main parties but like I said in my last post, whatever the outcome on May 7th, there’s plenty for us to build on.

Social Housing and Digital Inclusion: People not technology

I’m really lucky that by doing what I do, I get to have regular ‘pinch me’ moments. One of those moments was last week at an event we hosted for social housing organisations in London. We work with thousands of social housing providers through the UK online centres network and the Digital Housing Hub community. In case you didn’t know, the Digital Housing Hub was launched by Tinder Foundation in 2011, and has grown into a vibrant community for those working in digital inclusion in social housing.

Some brilliant speakers joined us; James Lewis from CHS Group shared his honest experience from the Making Money Count pilot. The project loaned tenants in the rural Fenland district, Cambridgeshire (where numeracy and literacy levels are amongst the lowest in the country) a laptop or tablet and Mifi. James highlighted the barriers to getting online, but also evidence that people can save money from being online. He said that for the people who had access to a device and broadband their financial inclusion improved – and improved faster.

James Lewis, CHS Group

James Lewis, CHS Group










I really enjoyed listening to Hannah Bailey from Berneslai Homes who passionately shared her views on how “digital strategy must be done now, not later” and should be at the heart of social housing organisations. Hannah has successfully helped Berneslai Homes to see digital inclusion as something relevant to all staff not just the ones with digital inclusion in their job titles or roles.

Hannah Bailey, Berneslai Homes

Hannah Bailey, Berneslai Homes










There was so much energy in the room with people from all over the country who had come to exchange ideas and experiences, and who all had a shared purpose; to reach the digitally excluded. There are 4.1 million adults living in social housing that are offline, and I was fascinated to hear how the social housing providers that attended have motivated their tenants to improve their digital skills. One of the things that came across loud and clear was that digital inclusion is now such a big part of financial and social inclusion, and that digital runs across the whole organisation and everything a housing provider does.

The networking and sharing of experiences was fabulous too, and it was great for Tinder Foundation’s new Director, Adam Micklethwaite to get stuck in.

Enjoying the Digi Housing event with Adam Micklethwaite, Tinder Foundation's Director of Business Innovation

Enjoying the Digi Housing event with Adam Micklethwaite, Tinder Foundation’s Director of Business Innovation










The event coincided with the launch of Tinder Foundation’s Doing Digital Inclusion: Social Housing handbook. This is the first in a series of ‘Doing Digital Inclusion’ handbooks, created to provide practical tips and solutions to tackling digital exclusion in specialist networks. I’d love to know what you think of it.

You can view the presentations from the event here. We have some more events planned over the next few months, and I’m looking forward to meeting lots more inspiring people doing great things and having more ‘pinch me’ moments.

328 pages of Manifesto pledges and promises, but does digital get a look-in?

So this week is ‘manifesto week’; Labour went first on Monday closely followed by the Conservatives on Tuesday and the Lib Dems released theirs on Wednesday morning.

With bated breath I searched through each one to see how much digital – skills, digital government, broadband access and mobile coverage – featured in each one.

Image via Huffington Post

Image via Huffington Post











Digital Skills


“We will support community-based campaigns to reduce the proportion of citizens unable to use the internet and help those who need it to get the skills to make the most of digital technology.” A great commitment to increasing digital skills.


“We will save you time, hassle and money by moving more services online, while actively tackling digital exclusion.” A big more vague, but still promising.

Lib Dem

“We will uphold the highest standards of accessibility in digital services and maintain government programmes in digital inclusion.” Maintenance is good, growth in programmes is better.


Digital Government


They outlined the important role that technology will play in the role of changing the way in which public services are delivered.“We will use digital technology to create a more responsive, devolved and less costly system of government.” They also went on to say: “We will further develop digital government to enable better communication, more collaboration and sharing data between services. It will make services and transactions more efficient and simpler for people to use. To create a more connected society, we will support making digital government more inclusive, transparent and accountable.”


“We will ensure digital assistance is always available for those who are not online, while rolling out cross-government technology platforms to cut costs and improve productivity – such as GOV.UK.” A good statement supporting Assisted Digital, always good to see that those who aren’t online will still get help to use an improved service (that’s digitally delivered of course).

Lib Dems

“Focus on delivering efficiency, funding proven spend to save initiatives and investing in technology to get public services and frontline staff online.” Quite a broad statement but like the other parties it seems like a commitment to ensuring that the government evolves to become as digital as possible.


Superfast Broadband


When it comes to broadband infrastructure the Labour party have committed to the following – “Labour will ensure that all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high-speed broadband by the end of the Parliament.”


The Conservatives have hedged their bets a little more; they have made one commitment to provide the majority of people with broadband access. “We will secure the delivery of superfast broadband in urban and rural areas to provide coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2017.” When it comes to providing broadband access for the whole of the UK they have been much more vague: “we have set an ambition that ultrafast broadband should be available to nearly all UK premises as soon as practicable.”

Lib Dems

“We will complete the roll out of high-speed broadband to reach almost every household (99.9%) in the UK.” Like the Labour statement, the Lib Dems are committing to completing the job of getting the infrastructure right.


Mobile Coverage


“We will work with the industry and the regulator to maximise private sector investment and deliver the mobile infrastructure needed to extend coverage and reduce ‘not spots’, including in areas of market failure.” A statement which I pretty much expected – ensuring that mobile coverage is as good as it can be.


“We will hold the mobile operators to their new legally binding agreement to ensure that 90 per cent of the UK landmass will have voice and SMS coverage by 2017.” The Conservatives gave a little more specificity than Labour, demonstrating that there is a legal binding agreement to get better mobile coverage.

Lib Dems

There was no mention of mobile coverage in their manifesto.

A promising start

Overall, I don’t think there have been any big surprises in the manifestos and digital inclusion has featured as much as we thought it would. There’s hope in all three, and certainly the promise for us to carry on with the work we are already doing. And there’s plenty here we can build on, no matter the decision of the voters on 7th May.

We’ll be looking at the rest of the Party manifestos next week, and I’ll do another round up of SNP, Green and UKIP to see where they stand.

Remember, the deadline to register to vote is Monday, 20th April!

An exciting addition to Tinder Foundation

I’m delighted to let you know that our new Business & Innovation Director, Adam Micklethwaite, started at Tinder Foundation today.

It’s great to have Adam joining our Senior Management Team, working closely with me, Charlotte, Margaret as well as the rest of the team. Adam’s Director role will be focused on:

  • Innovation: lead on trialling, testing and implementing new business ideas. Working closely with Alice on research
  • Business Development: developing bids and pitches to Trusts/Foundations and developing our commercial offers
  • Marketing: Working closely with Anna on developing our brands, and our network campaigns

Adam was previously Deputy Director at the Department of Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) working in the Enterprise Department. Adam led BIS’s work on developing business support services, and he worked closely with the Entrepreneurship programme that BIS delivers.

During the selection process Adam impressed us with his expertise, intelligence, and commitment to social enterprise. I’m really looking forward to working with him.

Day One will be full of meetings with people in the team. Tomorrow we’re off to London for our Social Housing & Digital Inclusion Event (there’s still time to book a place), and I’ll be blogging about it later this week.

The Final Countdown: A Digital Democracy Toolkit

Over the weekend I couldn’t help but think about Jack, a young guy I met last August when I was at Starting Point in Stockport to talk about the role of digital technology in democracy, during a roundtable discussion for the Digital Democracy Commission. I was reminded of Jack because it’s now only a month until the General Election, and there are only 14 days left to register to vote.

A Digital Democracy Toolkit












When I first met Jack, at Starting Point – that’s part of Taylor’s Fish and Chip Shop – he’d never had anything to do with politics. He had no idea what a polling station was and definitely had no interest in voting but by the end of our chat something had changed. He now knew that politics is something that affects everyone, not just “the men in suits in Westminster”, and that by voting everyone has a say in how the country is run. He knew he had a role in the politics of the UK, and he had a choice in who should represent him.

Not only was he showing an interest, but he was angry at the fact that no-one, including his school, had made the effort to provide him with even the basic information about what democracy is, how the UK political system worked and his role in it.

I hope the discussion I had with Jack did a little to inspire him to vote in a month’s time – and I certainly hope he has at least registered to vote. If Jack does decide to vote, I wonder if he’s got enough information to make his decision as I know it can be hard navigating the rhetoric and the 24 hours news cycle in order to decide who is the right party/representative for you.

With this in mind, the Tinder Foundation team have put together a Digital Democracy Toolkit – some of the brilliant resources from around the web on Community How To so that everyone has the chance to make that decision. Whether you’re unsure who your current local MP is (take a look at Find Your MP), or you want to know what’s actually going on in parliament (TheyWorkForYou will help) there’s so much on there.

Bite the ballot

And of course, there’s a link to registering to vote on there too! If you think there are any tools missing then do just register on the site and add them yourself.

Here are the key dates:

  • 20th April last day to register to vote
  • 7th May polling day (from 7am to 10pm)
  • 8th May (or maybe a little after that) we find out who is our next Government.

I’m a passionate advocate of democracy, and I would like everyone to feel informed and included enough to exercise the right to vote on the 7th May and to shape the future we want for our country. I hope you find the new toolkit useful as you make your final decisions on where to place your vote in one month’s time.

And here’s a tool to make your own countdown clock to May 7th and election day.