Agenda item


To receive a presentation with regard to the Switch Digital Inclusion Project.


The Customer Services Director, R Pavey gave a presentation to update the Select Committee on the Switch Digital Inclusion Project he advised that this would be in two parts, Switch Project and Digital Buddies.


At the last meeting of the Stronger Communities SC the Customer Services Director gave a presentation on the Switch Digital Inclusion Project and advised that the Council were working with Citizens Online, a registered charity whose aim was to ensure the benefits of the internet and digital technology was available to everyone. Citizens Online have now presented an 80 page document to the Council with recommendations for action within the district which they would like the Council to undertake.


(1)        Switch Project


What’s the story in Epping Forest


·        Older population than UK average;

·        Thriving, well connected third sector and community spirit;

·        Good level of willingness to be Digital Champions

EFDC staff – 46% and Partner Organisations – 75%;

·        Organisations are at different stages of transformation;

·        Group to support those claiming Universal Credit; and

·        Better joint working with libraries.




  • Establish a Digital Inclusion Network.
  • Launch a Digital Buddies programme,

1 Digital Buddy for every 100 people and there were 21,000 people therefore 210 Digital Buddies were needed.


The Digital Champions Network


·        Membership of resource network including e-Learning;

·        CPD / Mozilla accreditation;

·        Online Community Forum; and

·        Session Plans and worksheets.


Triage and Signposting


Skills and support


(a)   Assess the current skill level and rate of the customer’s ability, can they:

·        Start up and shut down a computer;

·        Use a keyboard and mouse;

·        Use a tablet;

·        Connect to the internet on a smartphone.


(b)   If they are capable of basic skills then either help them there and then or signpost to a Digital Champion drop in session.




Establish whether they have a device that can be connected to the internet and if not:


·        Signpost to a location where there is equipment they can use for example a library.


If they have a device but no internet connection:


·        Signpost to locations with free wifi.


Strategic Leadership


(a)   Support and promote the work of the DI network;

(b)   Embed DI into all procurement frameworks;

(c)   Digital Leadership and Lifelong learning for staff and residents;

(d)   Embed DI into HR process.


Centralise all information about digital skills into one place.


Geographic Recommendations


It was recommended that the areas most needing the support were Waltham Abbey and the South West Corridor. These were the areas with the higher levels of older residents on pension credit. It was noted that 4 out of every 5 residents on pension credit lived alone and suffered with isolation and loneliness.


Councillor R Brookes asked approximately how many people in the EF District were claiming housing benefit.


The Customer Services Director advised that there were approximately 8,000 people claiming housing benefit in the District.


Councillor J Lea stated that there were a lot of older people who did not have computers or internet and asked how would they get the help needed.


The Customers Services Director advised that they would be made aware of resources that were publicly available to them for example libraries, Citizens Advice and the Job Centre.


Councillor Mitchell informed the Select Committee that sheltered accommodation units had communal areas with one or two computers and it would be good to go into these units and help the residents to become digitally aware.


The Customer Services Director stated that imbedding digital skills in the community was at the forefront and sheltered accommodation units reduced the overheads.


(2)        Digital Buddies


What is a Digital Buddy?


·        Digital Buddies are people of all ages, from all backgrounds and communities.


·        They help others understand the benefits of using the internet and can show them how to do simple things online that can make a huge difference to people's lives.


·        Anyone can be a Digital Buddy, you dont have to be an IT Whizz. Its about sharing information and signposting to guidance.


Courses Available


There are many courses available to help and support disadvantaged people.


Community Forum


·        Peer to peer support available

·        Ask questions and get advice from other Buddies

·        Share achievements

·        Find Buddies near you and make local connections


Buddies can team up together and share achievements.


Record Activity and Monitor Progress


·        Digital Buddies are asked to record their engagement with learners.

·        This is a simple tally which tracks the number of learners and how many sessions.

·        The Council can also track the development of Buddies through their completion of the courses.


What is the Role of a Digital Buddy


(a)        Offering colleagues support with technology or systems;

(b)        Advising residents how they can access online Council Services (where the resident already has access to internet); and

(c)  Signposting a resident to digital skills support to help get people online, such as;

·        Local Digital Learner Sessions hosted by VAEF

·        Referrals for support to the Customer Service Team Manager

·        Referring anyone who expresses an interest in becoming a Community Digital Buddy to the Customer Services Team Manager.


Partnership Working


Below are some of the Partnerships that the Council were working with:


·        VAEF Digital Learners & Living Smart Homes Projects

·        Uttlesford CVS Digital Boomers Project

·        Epping Forest Community Champion Volunteers

·        DIZ Board

·        Epping Forest Digital Inclusion Network

·        Library Service

·        DWP

·        Citizens Advice

·        NHS / CCG


We were allowing these organisations to access the Epping Forest DCN so that they could set up their own Digital Buddies Programmes, with the support of the Customer Services Team Manager, Susan Lewis.


What’s Next


(a)        We would like to embed Digital Skills support into all job roles in the Council.


(b)        We would like to explore the potential of a Volunteering Policy to allow staff time during their working hours, to volunteer and support local residents.


(c)        We will continue to recruit to our Digital Buddies Programme and work with the buddies to develop them.


(d)        Continue partnership working and development to launch the ‘External Digital Buddies Programme’.


Councillor J H Whitehouse asked when would the Council be ready to launch this initiative.


The Customer Services Director stated that the programme was in hand and the Council were getting themselves up to speed internally.


Councillor A Patel asked how were the Council engaging with Town and Parish Councils to get them involved as it was important to reach the wider network.


The Customer Services Director advised that the Town and Parish Councils had been invited to get involved.


Councillor Wixley asked how would you engage with the community to let them know that help was available.


The Customer Services Director advised that the Council would publicise events into community centres and multi-agency centres.


Councillor Wixley asked where were the multi-agency centres in the District.


The Customer Services Director advised that the Job Centre in Loughton was a multi-agency centre.


Councillor Wixley stated that the target areas should be narrowed down to the Wards as this would be useful for Ward Councillors to recognise in what areas the most help was needed.


The Customer Services Director advised that he would ask if Citizens Online could break the target areas down into Wards.




The presentation of the Switch Project and Digital Buddies was noted.


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