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.

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.

Everyone’s been at it recently…

…talking about digital inclusion that is. Well, that’s how it’s felt after celebrating some important milestones over the past week.

In my last post I talked about the Digital Leaders Annual Lecture and following on from that I wrote a post for the Digital Leaders blog – which just so happened to coincide with the Digital Democracy debate at the House of Commons, led by Meg Hillier MP. It was also the first time the public (me included!) could use electronic devices during an MPs debate.

The Digital Democracy debate in Westminster Hall, March 2015

Fast forward a few days and it was back to Westminster, this time at the House of Lords, for a big day for the Tinder Foundation team. For the past six months we’ve been working with Vodafone UK and 17 UK online centres to research how mobile technology can contribute towards bridging that digital gap. The results of the project have formed a new report, “Mobile: Helping To Close The Digital Divide?

I must admit (it’s something I talked about on Tuesday) when we first started working with Vodafone I was feeling pretty fed up of attending events to hear people saying that everything (digitally-speaking) was fine because “all the old people will die soon and everyone left already owns a mobile”. And I was definitely fed up of replying (or often shouting) that they were wrong.

But the project with Vodafone has reignited my enthusiasm for mobile as there have been some really great results.

The launch event for ‘Mobile: Helping To Close The Digital Divide?’, a report produced by Tinder Foundation and Vodafone UK

We thought the people taking part would find using a mobile more intuitive (and they did) – which has had a huge impact. But the health and wellbeing impacts, and the impacts for people with caring responsibilities – were a real ‘bonus’ finding. The below is only a taster; I hope you can have a read of the findings in full here. Let me know what you think by using the hashtag #digitalmobile:

  • 55% not only learnt in the UK online centre with the help of the brilliant staff there, but they also carried on learning and enjoying their mobile device at home (and 45% didn’t learn independently)
  • 88% improved their digital skills, with their motivations for using the internet also changing dramatically
  • 65% reported improvements to confidence and self-esteem.
  • Overcoming loneliness and isolation was a big gain, with 67% saying they had better and more frequent communication with friends and family.

And finally, on Wednesday we celebrated another important milestone in our Widening Digital Participation work with the NHS, where I was joined by Dr Ollie Hart. Ollie is a GP from Sloan Medical Centre in Sheffield and together with local partners in Sheffield he has been integral in referring his patients to the UK online centres “digital surgery”, run by the Heeley Development Trust.

I’ll be blogging more about the Widening Digital Participation programme soon, but in the meantime take a look at http://nhs.tinderfoundation.org/.

We’re also holding a great Tweetchat next Thursday to find out what GPs, CCGs and other health practitioners think of the Widening Digital Participation programme. You can find out more here, and so do join in if you’re interested using the hashtag #NHSWDP – we hope to see you there!