Social housing has rarely been out of the news in the last few weeks with the introduction this week of a host of new welfare reforms and the impending Universal Credit pilot. The sector can seem a bit beleaguered at times, but I regularly get the chance to see some fantastic, inspiring digital inclusion work by social housing providers all over the country, and today I’m delighted to announce we’re part of the newly launched cross Government £400,000 challenge fund to improve tenant’s online skills.
The Digital Deal – which has been jointly funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Department for Communities and Local Government – will be managed by OCF and will support bids for innovative projects to improve the digital skills of social housing tenants.
I saw a great example of this just before Easter, when I took a long drive down the M1 to Barnet to see the work social housing provider Barnet Group is doing in the area. Barnet Group approached me quite a while ago when they heard I was offering free digital strategy workshops for social housing providers, as they knew they needed to do something, but weren’t quite sure where to start. The main driver for Barnet Group was to do something about digital inclusion for social justice reasons, and they decided to choose Burnt Oak as the place to kick off a pilot. Burnt Oak is one of the most deprived areas of Barnet – 46% of the population have low or no qualifications, life expectancy for a man is seven years lower than in the most prosperous part of the borough.
Barnet Group designed loveBurntOak – a project that would work with a number of partners including faith groups, libraries, the local Children’s Centre, Barnet College, JobCentrePlus, Barnet Council and many others – supporting people to improve their digital skills in the community, and also making innovative use of new technology, like tablets, to engage people who had previously been resistant to learning. It looks like @loveBurntOak is just the start, as the group has a vision to roll it out across other areas in Barnet co-ordinating activity and making a real impact on the lives of residents.
This and other inspiring stories that have come our way – and some stats, hints and tips – are on my latest slideshare presentation: here.
The challenge fund is open until June 3, and you can find out more on the Digital Housing Hub. Collaboration is key; and (in my personal opinion) please think about people and support – it’s not all about the technology!
Best of luck with your application.