Building tech confidence among KeyRing charity clients

National UK charity KeyRing supports more than 2,000 adults with a wide range of needs. KeyRing was supported via a recent AbilityNet project to distribute 300 Lenovo digital devices to older and disabled people who were disproportionately excluded from the digital world.

A man and a woman sitting in a social room looking at a smartphone, with tree in backgroundWe provided free training and advice for using the devices via AbilityNet's free Tech Support services.

"We have been really lucky in benefitting from device and data donations," says Michelle Lloyd, Practice Development Lead at KeyRing Living Support Networks. "We know first hand about the difference the devices have made."

Seeing the impact of digital connection

"Members [how KeyRing describes the clients it supports] talk very animatedly about how the devices have 'made their lives easier' and they have 'reconnected with family and friends' following periods of ill health. They also describe an 'increase in their mental health' and how they have felt 'more in control' of their lives, not relying on others to the extent they used to," says Michelle.

One of KeyRing's Members said:

"I think is really important for everyone to have a mobile phone if they are able to use one (and want one) – they are great for keeping in touch. I would not want to be without mine. I contact my GP when I need to. I make calls every day to my family and friends – my phone is my lifeline. I put medication prompts on my phone (and my Alexa). My technology means that I do not forget things."

Experiencing the power of tech

KeyRing's digital champions Sue and Joanne in Bexley, South London, noticed a range of positive differences since Members received their devices:

They report that Members have become increasingly confident in their IT skills. Initially, they found that Members asked the staff and volunteers to show them how to do things. "Now, there is a lot of peer support taking place and Members are sharing their skills with each other – everyone’s confidence has grown hugely," says Michelle.

A man and a woman looking at a smartphone together while sitting at a table in a group settingSupport with online banking and health needs

KeyRing supports Members with a wide variety of support needs and some daily living tasks, that have all been made easier following receiving the devices, including:

  • Managing finances (online banking, managing universal credit claims, comparison sites for utilities, checking pensions).
  • Managing homes (home searches, reporting repairs, searching for tradespeople, online food shopping, ordering pet food).
  • Managing health needs (using the NHS app, booking health appointments, ordering repeat prescriptions, researching alternative therapies, wellbeing support, using fitness apps).
  • Education, work and leisure opportunities (looking at college courses, looking for work and volunteering opportunities, booking holidays and travel, cinema and bowling trips, accessing social media sites, video calling, online dating, accessing streaming services, playing games, listening to the radio, accessing smart devices like Alexa).
Members shared insights about the impact of the devices and digital support they received: 
"I received a tablet from AbilityNet. I use it a lot. I do shopping on the tablet and I have social media accounts e.g. Facebook. I have an email account too which I use a lot. I also use the tablet for general entertainment e.g. Googling." - Christopher
"I have enjoyed having a tablet that is just for me and I can use. Everything else we have in the house is shared with my kids, but I am the only one allowed to use this tablet. It has made me happy." - Michael
"To read and write, I go on social media and read on there and send messages. I think this is making my reading and writing better. It is easier on the bigger screen (than his phone). I listen to music as well." - Tomie

Improving efficiencies

As with all social care services we need to make the very best use of the support team’s time and tech confidence can be really varied amongst the team too, Michelle notes.

Michelle reports that many of the people KeyRing supports are now doing online activities and tasks that help in their lives independently of the support staff, which means more support time is spent being pro-active instead of reactive.

"More support time can be used around mental and emotional wellbeing, thinking and planning with individuals around their aspirations not just reacting to crisis," Michelle says.

If you work in a community organisation and need training on digital skills for your team, contact AbilityNet to find out about the support options we have available. From free disability training for community groups, to in-house disability awareness training for larger organisations, we can help.  

How AbilityNet can help