'Get Connected', funded by North Somerset Council, is open to low income residents on Universal Credit or with little or no qualifications, particularly in areas where digital exclusion levels are high.
The council has a limited number of laptops and data packages available to loan free of charge for a period of 12 months to eligible residents.
So far 70 North Somerset residents have been loaned a laptop or received data since the project launched in December.
All residents are supported throughout the 12-month loan period with regular check-ins and referrals to employment and welfare support. Seven residents have now found employment.
The majority of those on the programme have signed up for a variety of courses available via the council’s community learning team and library service, as well as through Weston College. Courses are varied and include IT, business skills, maths, English, construction, warehouse industry training, hairdressing, confidence building, laughter yoga and many more!
“The past months with the Covid restrictions and lockdowns have shown us how important being connected is, and we are committed to reducing digital inequality so I’m delighted to see the positive effects the programme has had so far,” said Cllr Catherine Gibbons, the council's executive member for children's services and lifelong learning.
Comments received by residents using the service include:
“This has made the world of difference to me. I've caught up with all my college work and my tutors are happy with me.”
“I feel so lifted to get a laptop and some data. I’ve felt so isolated during lockdown and have been feeling unemployable due to my age.”
“I have found permanent work as a car delivery driver and it was due to daily job searches using the laptop. I have also learned to do online shopping."
“The laptop has been a godsend."
“I feel like my life is finally moving forward thanks to the project.”
To find out more about the scheme and whether you are eligible contact the council's digital inclusion project co-ordinator Jane Goodison on 01934 426 196 or firstname.lastname@example.org.