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“A lot of kids have fallen back and that’s a huge worry for some mums”

We talked to three local partner organisations and asked them about how digital exclusion had affected their clients during the pandemic, what had helped so far and what the current needs are. This is what they said.

One True Voice

One True Voice (OTV) was founded in 2010 by Somali women to support Somali girls and women. They help Somali women of all ages to understand, cope with and resolve the challenges they face in British and Somali society. During the pandemic they have been supporting their clients

We talked to Mushi, Acting Coordinator: “The situation hasn’t been easy, from the beginning we tried to connect with them through telephone conversations, calling them every day during lockdown to ask them about the support they needed, how they were coping, etc. Some of our outreach workers were on the ground delivering food parcels, medications and asking about their needs”.

…and this is what Idil, Support Worker at OTV, told us about the digital barriers the women they work with were facing:

 

…and continues: “A lot of kids have fallen back, and that’s a huge worry for some mums. They are striving for their kids to do better, and they are worried. Some of the kids have done the A Levels and, although there have been good results – most of the children of our clients have passed – it’s very important to have that literacy gap closed. We want to work with schools and ask if they can offer computer lessons to parents”. “We have a parents club now in which we’re engaging with parents to help them help their kids in their choices in their careers, to have those parents be part of their journey”.

 

Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants

The Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants (ICRM) works to create a strong, positive, community in Islington for people who have been displaced from their countries of origin due to persecution, war, and poverty. “We work mostly with destitute asylum seekers in the main, but we do have people that have recently got refugee status and a small number of non-refugee migrants as well”, explains Andy, CEO at ICRM. “Pre-Covid the services we offered were mainly face to face, people would come to us and we would see around 65 to 70 people every day in a rolling basis. They would come to learn English, take part in activities…and help them with things like registering an Oyster card, which has a digital barrier, accessing their bank account online…”

But after the start of the pandemic Andy explains:

Some of the money from the Crisis Fund has allowed the Centre to continue sending support packages to those Islington residents most in need. These packages included food vouchers, mobile phone top-ups and transport allowances. Mobile phone top-ups have meant people can keep in touch with their families, with the staff, and with their online language lessons.

Islington People’s Rights

Islington People’s Rights (IPR) provide specialist welfare benefits and debt advice, and can provide advice on all aspects of Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits from making a claim, to appeals, including representation at tribunals. IPR can ensure claimants are receiving the correct amount of benefits and provide advice on the impact of welfare reforms. Debt advice includes negotiating with creditors, dealing with utility bills, benefit overpayments, and assisting with applications for Debt Relief Orders and Bankruptcy to Islington residents

“Many of our clients are people with disabilities, mental health issues, addiciton issues…, many of them have been digitally excluded over the years and changes like the introduction of Universal Credit have meant that they have had to access online reports and many more documents digitally than they were used to”, explains Gerard, CEO at IPR, “the challenge is that many don’t have access to the technology and that’s been a problem even before the pandemic” (see video for more):

 

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