During the second national COVID-19 lockdown, the Community Action Team has continued to support beneficiaries that received equipment though the Connecting Tulse Hill initiative which began during the very first lockdown in early 2020.
In the last few months, we reconnected with every beneficiary who had received support from the Connecting Tulse Hill Partnership to check the technology was still functioning. This was around 184 people (over roughly 74 hours’ worth of conversations) which included wellbeing check-ins and 1:1 support for IT and connectivity issues.
This led to a lot of follow-up support calls, repairs, tutorial calls etc. to ensure everyone was fully connected and able to do what they needed online. Through the calls we also identified people in need of additional support such as food vouchers, ensuring those in need received food packages from the local Trussell Trust foodbanks.
Throughout this latest national lockdown and as a legacy project to the Connecting Tulse Hill initiative, High Trees was open as a Digital Hub. One of the few places locally, offering face to face technology support which was vital for many local residents to access essential services such as job applications, online study, council services etc.
High Trees provided bookable computer access alongside in-person support for computer users who needed it. General technology support was also provided both over the phone and in-person at High Trees with laptops, tablets and phones. Ranging from issues with hardware and software to giving tutorials on specific tasks on their devices, we found this to be of huge benefit and took referrals from other organisations as well. The hub ran two days a week for 10 weeks and had 74 visits throughout this time.
Part of the digital hub included the distribution of 14 phones with a 24GB sim card for those without internet access at home. 8 loan laptops were provided for learners on High Trees courses to access online lessons and do coursework. In addition, 12 WiFi codes were provided to give free internet access until July. This was part of the ‘Everyone Connected’ project from the Good Things Foundation. For most, the data was the essential component of this package but for some beneficiaries the phone was crucial to accessing some kind of service.
As the final legacy project of the Connecting Tulse Hill initiative we are currently in the planning stages of rolling out a Community W-Fi initiative in Tulse Hill to provide basic, free, internet access to those who currently do without. It involves sharing internet from surrounding organisations to create a Wi-Fi network across a housing estate in several phases in partnership with Lambeth council and an organisation with telecommunications expertise.
Overall, projects like these have been crucial to avoid the worst problems of the lockdown in keeping people connected to the wider world for essential services and to one another.
“During Lockdown I needed to use the internet to keep up with news on Brexit and EU settlement statuses for my mum. I was able to use computers in High Trees’ Hub to confirm her ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) and make sure of her immigration status. It was a big help to both of us when libraries were closed.”
“In lockdown my appointments with my immigration lawyer went online and I needed to understand video calls and emails to keep in contact. High Trees gave me instructions on how to use my phone and how to email documents so I could continue to go to my immigration appointments which would’ve been impossible without their support.”