AbilityNet volunteer helps boost device skills via Camden and Islington partnership

Woman using laptop and smilingFollowing the success of an initial pilot with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust’s Traumatic Stress Clinic (TSC) and AbilityNet, there is now a digital inclusion scheme up-and running, which went live in October 2021.

The scheme provides any service users within the Trust who access community mental health services with devices via a tablet loan scheme. It helps individuals to source suitable and affordable internet access, and offers short- or long-term digital support through the continued partnership.

Providing access to the digital world

As part of this scheme, London resident, Madeleine, 81, was loaned a tablet to perform certain tasks she hadn’t been able to before.

"I thought a tablet was medicine!" says Madeleine. "We [Madeleine and her husband] were complete novices and hadn’t got a clue about how to use it."

But help came in the form of Sophie Quinn, an AbilityNet volunteer, who was put in touch with Madeleine via the Trust, and went to visit her at her home. Sophie showed Madeleine how to set up her very first email account using the tablet device, which has opened up to her and her husband a new way of accessing information and staying in touch with others. 

“Friends sent emails with photos of their holiday in Greece: of olive trees, a donkey sanctuary, of broccoli they’d grown," says Madeleine. “Having this device has given us a lot more knowledge about other things we can look up online to help feel connected to others. For example, looking up health questions, or seeing pictures of my husband’s hometown in Ireland.”

Sophie wrote down instructions for how to access her emails so that Madeleine could refer to this and follow steps for logging in to her account when Sophie wasn’t there in person to advise. 

Two people on an online meeting shown on a laptop on a tableGetting to grips with Zoom

As a person who is registered blind/partially sighted, and due to her limited mobility, Madeleine can sometimes find it difficult to attend events in person. During one of the Covid lockdowns she also wanted to be able to watch a relative’s funeral service online.

As a result, Madeleine was keen to find out how to use Zoom, so Sophie downloaded Zoom to Madeleine’s tablet and taught her how to log in and set up meetings, making a note of her account's Meeting ID so Madeleine had it available for easy reference. 

The pair then had a session testing sending emails to each other, and doing some trial runs of Zoom meetings, to help show how the meetings platform worked.

“We were really excited and have been able to speak with family in America and Ireland,” Madeleine says.

Do you need help running accessible meetings and events in Zoom, Teams and more?

AbilityNet has a training course available as an on-demand recording, in person online event, or you can book a group session for your organisation.

Opening up a whole new world

Although the device scheme has given Madeleine the confidence to perform certain tasks online that she hadn't been able to before, she would welcome the opportunity to have regular meetings with an AbilityNet tech volunteer outside of the initial introductory sessions she has had with Sophie, “so that it sticks in the brain,” she says.

“I'm also frightened about stories we hear of people getting scammed online, so am a little nervous of performing certain tasks online. Regular volunteer help would boost my confidence in how to do things like online shopping, taking part in surveys, booking doctors’ appointments and so on.”

But asked what she would say of the scheme to others, Madeleine says: “We are very grateful to have this opportunity - we wouldn't have got to grips with the internet if this hadn't been offered to us. It gave us that extra push."

Madeleine continues: "It has opened up a whole new world – the information you can get via the internet. When before we’d just be looking at the TV screen. Accessing the internet does have a lot of advantages. For us it’s a miracle, really. It’s been fantastic!”

Request Free IT Support At Home

You can request a home visit by:

  • Using the 'Home Visit Request' form on our website
  • Calling our helpline during Monday to Friday office hours on 0300 180 0028
  • Please note: calls to our helpline number cost no more than a national rate call to an 01 or 02 number and count towards any inclusive minutes in the same way as 01 and 02 calls, and AbilityNet does not receive any money from these calls
  • Sending an email to enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk

Help others with your tech skills

Are you handy with digital devices? Use your IT skills to support people like Madeleine who need help in your local area.

We're particularly in need of tech volunteers in the following areas:

  • Sussex 
  • London
  • Manchester
  • East Yorkshire
  • Edinburgh
  • Wales
  • Essex
  • Devon
  • Cornwall
  • Dorset
  • Hants
  • Kent
  • Somerset & Avon
  • East Anglia
  • Northants

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Please note: Image shown is not Madeleine. Image provided by the Centre for Ageing Better.